10sBalls.com • TennisBalls.com

Wimbledon Women’s Wrap: Ajla Tomljanovic Speaks for All of us in Tennis in Dramatic, Controversial Win Over Jelena Ostapenko – 10sBalls.com

Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia reacts during her third round match against Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia at the Wimbledon Championships, 03 July 2021. EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL

By Thomas Cluck

It wasn’t the biggest match of the day at Wimbledon 2021, far from it on an action-packed Day Six that saw third round action conclude at the All England Club. It was just Court 15 in quiet SW19. 

But despite giants of the game like Roger Federer playing Brig cam Norrie in a popcorn match on center court. Tennis fans galore in Nick Kyrgios and Felix Auger-Alliasime taking place, somehow Croat-turned-Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic spoke for the sport of tennis in unison- about as hard a task as any these days- when she finally called out the one rule this sport has had enough of for too long. Jelena Ostapenko didn’t stand a chance.

In a dramatic, tense, controversy-filled match, unseeded Tomljanovic ousted the hot Eastbourne champion, 2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko, fending off the Latvian’s fiery strokes and even more fiery attitude and attempts at gamesmanship to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, with a good old fashioned British rain shower thrown in the middle for good measure. 

Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia looks at the rain clouds at the Wimbledon Championships, 03 July 2021. EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL

As Tomljanovic led 4-0 in the third and deciding set, on a run of seven straight games, Ostapenko did the frowned upon yet entirely predictable tact of calling a sudden medical timeout- right as her opponent is to serve, not during a changeover may I remind you- refusing to play on and demanding the trainer. 

After years and years of entirely legal but always controversial, entirely clear fake medical timeouts utilized more for stopping the pain of poor play and momentum than the pain of injury in tennis, a grey-area this sport has so greatly failed to even attempt to police, Ajla Tomljanovic had enough. She spoke for all of us. 

“You know she’s lying, right? We all know. Are you taking into any consideration that she looked fine?,” protested Tomljanovic. 

As much as she protested, Tomljanovic was helpless. A big-hitting former top junior, much heralded, always seeking that big win and a big run at a major tournament, and she had to wait and watch possibly another player cheat her out of what was her due. It wasn’t that long ago that another player with circumspect sportsmanship and poor locker room reputation in Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska, fittingly off the tour currently due to a doping suspension, did successfully cheat Tomljanovic out of a WTA title in Hua Hin with a strategically-placed medical timeout to steal the Aussie’s momentum and wrestle back the title. Tomljanovic did not respond well. 

Despite her pleas, the chair umpire had to allow it. As much as so many of us have protested, there is no rule requiring medical timeouts only on changeovers or at the discretion and judgement of the chair umpire. Surely, despite the fact that not all injuries are apparent, we can expect the umpire- who can apparently judge if a ball clips the line by a millimeter or grass- to also exercise their judgement and determine if an injury is serious or callously false. Even easier, don’t allow medical timeouts except on the changeover. If Ostapenko was in such pain, she could have taken one earlier at 3-0 or forfeited the game for 5-0 to take it then. 

So, overcoming all this and her big match mental demons to win, Tomljanovic had had enough. No more nice girl. She called it like she saw it- like it is- and spoke for all of us in tennis. She knows the players with the reputations for gamesmanship, we all do. Ostapenko, furious after her defeat and the even more shocking fact of being called out for what it was clear she was doing, lashed out at Tomljanovic, calling her “very, very disrespectful” and “the worst player on tour.” 

Look who won.

Tomljanovic summed it up perfectly. “You’re one to talk”.

Editors Note: clearly the players have been requested by the tourney to clear away all their own trash after a match. We’ve witnessed this for a week. Players actually picking up their own empty water bottles and finding the rubbish bin •  But Not Ostapenko today … (LJ)