15 June, 2024
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Tomljanovic and Saville out to avert Paris wipeout

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Daria Saville and Ajla Tomljanovic, the old guard of domestic tennis, have their work cut out to stop the Australian women’s game suffering its first French Open wipeout this century.

But the two stalwarts, who’ve overcome a couple of years of injury woes to be back in grand slam action against seeded opposition, are happy to be still flying the flag after their young colleagues failed to make it in Paris.

Saville and Tomljanovic
 Saville and Tomljanovic as Australia teammates at the 2019 Fed Cup final. Image by Fiona Hamilton/AAP PHOTOS 

“I feel like the old guard, as you call us, we’re definitely here to stay for sure for a couple more years at least,” the upbeat 31-year-old Tomljanovic told AAP.

“I know like if I could play 10 more years, I probably would with my eagerness.”

Meanwhile, Saville, back as Australia’s No.1 over six years since her last reign, told AAP she feels like a refreshed 26-year-old, not a 30-year-old wearied by injury setbacks that would have derailed a lesser individual.

Once 22-year-old Olivia Gadecki became the last Australian to succumb in qualifying at Roland Garros on Friday, the pair were charged with saving the day in the Paris main draw.

Not since 1997 has Australia failed to pilot at least one woman player into the second round at the French.

Yet it will be a tall order to avoid this with wildcard Tomljanovic, who’s played just one match in four months after knee problems and a surgical procedure, playing Ukraine’s 30th seed Dayana Yastremska first up on Sunday, with Saville drawn against Italian high-flyer Jasmine Paolini, the 12th seed.

Melbourne’s Saville had suggested earlier in the week it was now the turn of Australia’s young brigade to take the reins.

“Well, they’ve got the pressure. They haven’t actually had their breakthrough, so I guess it’s really their turn now,” she said.

Not quite yet, though.

For while both are encouraged by the progress of Gadecki, 18-year-old Taylah Preston and 15-year-old Emerson Jones, the world’s No.3 junior, for the moment they’re the duo still holding the fort. 

“I feel like even though I’m 30, I’m more like a 26-year-old player, because of how many years I’ve missed out on, so I don’t feel tired,” said Saville, fancying she can return to the world’s top 30 as she keeps improving following her ACL tear in November 2022.

“I’m healthy and I’m excited, so I don’t feel like, ‘oh my god, I’ve been around this tour for so long, I’m sick of it’.”

Tomljanovic concurred. “I like having that freshness and hunger to play because I think a lot of the girls my age are maybe a bit more tired, whereas I’m a lot more refreshed.

“I can relate. I’ve been the girl that was a bit burnt out by the time the French came. So I’m trying to take every positive I can. 

“I see my career, at least if I’m healthy, with like four or five more years, which is a pretty good feeling. I think it’s same with Dasha (Saville). She’s had some setbacks as well but she could be fresh in her mind just like me.”

And to put an extra spring in their step, the pair have even teamed up for a crack at the doubles.

“Hopefully, a good combination,” beamed Saville. 

Certainly, an irrepresible one.

AUSTRALIANS IN ACTION ON DAY ONE OF THE FRENCH OPEN (PREFIX DENOTES SEEDING):

Men’s singles

Aleksandar Vukic v Zhizhen Zhang (CHN)

Jordan Thompson v Maximilian Marterer (GER) 

Women’s singles

Ajla Tomljanovic v 30-Dayana Yastremska (UKR)

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