The youth movement continues to take down more victims in the women’s draw as third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska became the next high-profile casualty, falling to young up-and-comer world No72 Ajla Tomljanovic in the third round on Friday.
Tomljanovic, 21, dispatched the world No3 6-4, 6-4 to reach the fourth round on her Roland Garros main draw debut and she admits she’s been inspired by the efforts of 20-year-old Garbine Muguruza and 21-year-old Kristina Mladenovic, the slayers of the top two seeds Serena Williams and Li Na in the previous rounds.
“After seeing the two first seeds go out, you kind of feel like I can do this, too. I grew up with these girls that are beating them,” the Croat said after her match.
“I went on the stadium for the first time, and she (Radwanska) kind of feels like home there, because she's been there a lot more than I did. I went out there, and I really, inside really thought I could win.
“I think that showed and it is why I won.”
For the first time since tennis turned professional in 1968, the top three women seeds crash out before the fourth round at any Grand Slam.
Radwanska was making her 32nd consecutive main draw appearance at a major while Tomljanovic is playing only her fourth Grand Slam but the young Croat looked more like the tour veteran as she raced to a 5-1 lead in the opening set.
The Pole tried to fight back, winning three in a row to make it 4-5 but Tomljanovic confidently served out the set. An early break was all the Florida-resident needed to take the second set and the match, and reach the last 16 of a major for the first time in her career.
Tomljanovic, who trains at the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, stressed that she didn’t want to get too excited as she hopes to go further in the tournament.
She calls Chris Evert her “second mom” and explains how the American legend tries to instill in her the mental toughness and positive body language that helped her win 18 major singles titles.
“It's kind of nice to see it from her perspective when she watches me play, to see if I'm nervous,” said Tomljanovic of Evert. “She always thought I had good composure but maybe thought I could be a little bit more feisty out there.”
A dejected Radwanska paid tribute to her opponent and particularly lauded her serve.
Radwanska was the highest seed left in the draw prior to yesterday and when asked whether she had high expectations of herself this fortnight, going into the match, the 25-year-old said: “I was saying yesterday that it doesn't mean if first and second seed lost, doesn't mean the third one is going to win. It's stupid to say that.
“I don't think it was my day today. I think I just started too slow. I was 5 1 down, and I guess I was a little late for the first set. I was still trying, almost came back, but it didn't work out well. But she definitely played good tennis today. I had my chances. I didn't do them. I think that cost me the match.”