Tomljanovic to shake off ‘bad juju’ as comeback begins

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Australia hasn’t always been a happy hunting ground for Ajla Tomljanovic.

The 2022-23 United Cup in Sydney marked the start of an injury-riddled year for the 30-year-old, after she was forced to withdraw with a knee problem in the tournament’s inaugural year.

Australian Ajla Tomljanovic during a practice session ahead of the United Cup.Credit: Getty

Tomljanovic then missed the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, followed by a second-round walkover at the US Open – a tournament she became famous for a year earlier when she defeated 23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams, ending her career.

But fresh off a win in Brazil last month, Tomljanovic has returned for the 2023-24 United Cup where she’s hoping to shake her “bad juju” from last year.

“I feel like I’ve had a few heartbreaking moments in my career here [Australia], but it’s always the one I look forward to come back to the most,” Tomljanovic said.

“It’s the best feeling, being back here. Memories from last year aren’t so fun, so to come back here and actually be able to experience centre court and hitting, it feels so good.”

Ajla Tomljanovic is hoping 2024 will be even more successful than her breakout year in 2022.Credit: Getty

The United Cup is a mixed teams event played across Sydney and Perth where 18 countries, split into six groups, compete in a round-robin format, with the finals to be played in Sydney on January 6 and 7.

Team Australia, which consists of Tomljanovic, Storm Hunter, Ellen Perez, Alex de Minaur, John Millman and Matthew Ebden, will be competing in Perth.

It hasn’t been easy for Tomljanovic to get back to this point. After a breakout year in 2022, where she progressed to the quarter-finals at the US Open and Wimbledon, Tomljanovic said she questioned if she could find that form again.

“[I questioned] if I’ll ever be able to come back and physically able to do what I expect myself and what’s just required to play at a high level,” she said.

“I thought about it [her 2022 results] this year quite a bit, just because I had so much time to think. And, why I did think about it was just to remind myself that I’ve done it before and just kind of feel that and believe that I can do it again.

“All I need to do is just get healthy. I think that just kept me going because I don’t want to just repeat it, I want to go a step further. So the hunger is probably more there than ever.”

Tomljanovic knows the results could take time, but she’s willing to put in the work.

“I do have to just remind myself constantly how far I have come this year because there were times when I really doubted a lot of things,” she said.

“The fact that I am back to feeling pretty good, and there’s still a lot to improve on, especially my movement and things, but at the same time I feel like I can play a high level with what I’ve got, which gets me excited. Hopefully that perspective can maybe help me turn around my bad juju from my Aussie summers these past few years.”

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