Ajla Tomljanovic suffers cruel blow ahead of Australian Open

The Australian Open draw could be fraught for Ajla Tomljanovic, with the world No.35 narrowly missing out on a crucial seeding spot.

Ajla Tomljanovic is pictured in a side by side picture, smiling before grimacing in frustration.
Ajla Tomljanovic missed out on a seeding spot for the Australian Open by the barest of margins, a brutal blow ahead of 2023's first grand slam. Pictures: Getty Images

Ajla Tomljanovic's impressive 2022 season has unfortunately not been reflected in the seeding for the Australian Open, with the 29-year-old only narrowly missing out. In a particularly cruel twist of fate, Tomljanovic likely would have been seeded had she not had to withdraw from the United Cup earlier in January.

World No.1 Iga Swiatek has unsurprisingly taken the top seed, with defending men's champion Rafael Nadal topping the men's draw. Having missed out on a seed for her home grand slam, Tomljanovic will likely have to overcome a highly-ranked opponent at some point in the early rounds.

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It was a disappointing blow for Tomljanovic, who had been hopeful her quarter-final appearance at the US Open would have been just enough to see her through. She also made the quarter final at Wimbledon, however was not awarded points after the tournament was stripped of them amid the ongoing Russia controversy.

Salting the wound for the World No.35 was the fact that had a knee issue not forced her to withdraw from the United Cup, she likely would have earned a seed for the Australian Open. One week and two ranking spots were all that separated her from a more advantageous position heading into the tournament.

The setback is especially frustrating after Tomljanovic last year became the first Australian female to reach the Wimbledon and US Open quarter-finals since the great Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1979. Integral also in leading Australia to the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup final, Tomljanovic has done a superb job filling the nigh-on impossible shoes of Ash Barty as Australia's new women's No.1.

The retired reigning Australian Open champion told AAP before Tomjanovic's seedings setback that the 29-year-old loomed as a serious title contender in Melbourne "And that's the genuine feeling among the players," Barty said.

"Certainly when I played Ajla, I knew I had to be at my absolute very best or she'd completely roll me. And she's got that respect from everyone."

Ajla Tomljanovic suffers Australian Open seeding setback

Tomljanovic took the opening set of a pulsating Wimbledon quarter-final against eventual champion Elena Rybakina in July before also losing a high-quality US Open last-eight encounter to world No.2 Ons Jabeur.

While Tomljanovic has missed out, fellow Australians Nick Kyrgios and Alex de Minaur have crucially been seeded 20th and 23rd respectively in the men's singles. That gives Kyrgios and de Minaur all-important protection against top-eight players until at least the last 16 of the season's first grand slam starting on Monday.

Tomljanovic was inadvertently drawn into Kyrgios' feud with Australian tennis great Lleyton Hewitt following her withdrawal from the United Cup. Both top-ranked Aussies withdrew from the teams tournament, but Kyrgios' earlier decision left some bent out of shape.

Despite being captain, Hewitt only learned Kyrgios had pulled out at the same time as the rest of the team: ten minutes before Australia faced the press. When he tried to contact Kyrgios thereafter, Hewitt did not immediately receive a response.

Ajla Tomljanovic smiles during a press conference at the 2022 US Open.
Ajla Tomljanovic enjoyed her strongest season in 2022, making the quarter finals of both Wimbledon and the US Open. (Photo by Robert Prange/Getty Images)

"It was pretty tough not knowing what was going on the last 24 hours," Hewitt said. It was more probably the lack of communication.

"If it was just worrying Nick, that's one thing, but when it revolves around the team and other people and I guess their preparation ... they want to be playing as well as they can not just in this event but also leading into the Australian Open. That's probably the hardest thing."

After Maddison Inglis was announced as her replacement, Kyrgios took a swipe at Hewitt by questioning whether Tomljanovic would face similar criticism from Australia's female captain.

"Mmm I wonder if (Sam) Stosur will throw her under the bus like our captain did for me ... 'hard to prepare when you don't know what's going on'," Kyrgios wrote on Twitter.

Defending champion Nadal is the men's top seed in the absence of injured world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz, with nine-time winner Novak Djokovic named fourth seed on Wednesday. Swiatek is the women's top seed as the Pole looks to add the Australian Open crown to the French and US Open titles she already holds.

With AAP

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