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Tomljanovic makes gallant Wimbledon exit

Ajla Tomljanovic is feeling bittersweet after going down swinging in a gallant Wimbledon quarter-final loss to big-hitting 17th seed Elena Rybakina.

Tomljanovic took the opening set to raise the prospect of an extraordinary 51-year Australian tennis first before bowing out 4-6 6-2 6-3 on Wednesday.

Rybakina is the tournament’s ace leader, boasts the second-fastest serve of the 2022 championships and ultimately overpowered Tomljanovic on show court No.1.

But not before Tomljanovic put up an almighty fight.

The 29-year-old played one of the sets of her life to threaten a boilover early on.

Defying her underdog status, Tomljanovic’s fearless groundstrokes and relentless retrieving – including one incredible running topspin lob winner from behind the baseline – earned the world No.44 the first set.

Already the first Australian since Jelena Dokic in 1999 and 2000 to make the quarter-finals, Tomljanovic suddenly looked a chance to deliver the most spectacular and unlikely of encores to Ash Barty’s march to the title last year.

Legends Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1970 and 1971 are the only Australians to win the Wimbledon singles in consecutive years.

Alas, after losing to Barty in the quarters last year, Tomljanovic again fell at the same stage as Rybakina stepped up with an other 15 aces to dominate the second and third sets.

“It was a bit disappointing because I felt like I played a really good first set. Actually one of the cleanest sets I’ve played all tournament,” Tomljanovic said.

“I felt like the middle of that second she definitely raised her level. She served crazy good.

“Yeah, just disappointed because I felt like with my game I was really there.”

Rybakina at one stage reeled off seven games in a row from 2-2 in the second set to 3-0 in the third to turn the quarter-final around.

Despite Tomljanovic gamely breaking back for 2-5 in the deciding set, the reprieve merely proved a stay of execution as Rybakina eventually closed out the match after one hour and 51 minutes.

“I’m really proud of the fact that I managed to play back-to-back quarters. That’s something that I’ll be proud of no matter what,” Tomljanovic said.

“But a bit of a different feeling than last year just because I really felt like I was in this match. I came in really believing that I could win, where maybe that wasn’t the case last year.

“But the good thing is that I’m playing good tennis, and I don’t see why I can’t put myself out there again in the next slam or whenever.

“Definitely think it’s been a step forward, and I can just build off of that.”

Rybakina’s victory set up a semi-final date on Thursday with resurgent 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, a 6-2 6-4 winner over American Amanda Anisimova earlier on Wednesday.

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