Ajla Tomljanovic has missed out on reaching her first WTA tournament quarter-final for two years after injury struck Australia’s No.2 during the Serbia Open in Belgrade.
Tomljanovic was locked in a third set battle with Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson in a rain-interrupted contest on Wednesday, hoping to capitalise on her recent upturn in fortunes on the European clay-court circuit when misfortune struck.
Struggling with what appeared an injury to her left hip at the end of the second set, the 28-year-old Tomljanovic had a medical timeout and, after treatment, then lasted only three more games before deciding to retire at 2-1 down in the third.
It is wretched luck for the Brisbane-based player, who has won three straight games during qualifying and the main draw at last week’s Italian Open, which had seemed to signal that the former world No.39 was rediscovering her best form with the French Open on the horizon.
It means that with world No.1 Ash Barty having also had to pull out of Rome with an arm injury, both of Australia’s top two have now suffered setbacks before the Paris grand slam, the main draw of which begins on May 30.
Playing at Novak Djokovic’s Novak Tennis Centre in Belgrade, in an event organised by the world No.1’s brother Djordje, Tomljanovic appeared poised to win a seventh match in her last nine as she fought back from 4-2 down to take the opening stanza 6-4.
Her progress against No.7 seed Peterson, though, was halted when heavy rains came in the second set while the Australian, on serve, was still playing confidently, serving at 3-2 down against an opponent she’d beaten four times before.
But the rain stoppage at the venue on the banks of the Danube turned out to be a lengthy one as the pair had to wait for four hours before battle could be resumed.
Once it was, the whole complexion of the match changed swiftly as Tomljanovic, who’d by this point already begun to look discomfited by her hip injury, was broken to love.
Peterson raced through the next two games to take the set 6-2, leaving Tomljanovic to call for the trainer, but she never looked comfortable when they resumed.