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Tomljanovic comeback gathers pace as Wimbledon looms

Ajla Tomljanovic has been left celebrating another landmark on her road back to the top, reaching her first WTA tournament semi-final of the year in Edgbaston.

The Australian No.1 this time last year, who's since sunk to national No.10 after a series of injury and illness setbacks, showed her true colours on the comeback trail at the Birmingham Classic on Friday.

Tomljanovic roared to victory after being outplayed in the first set of their quarter-final by former US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez.

Back In Business 💼@AjlaTom defeats Fernandez 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 for her first tour-level SF in 5️⃣ years!#RothesayClassic pic.twitter.com/7WopGnkwwV

— wta (@WTA) June 21, 2024

In just her fourth competition back after a four-month lay-off following a knee injury and surgery to remove non-cancerous uterine tumours, Tomljanovic's 1-6 6-3 6-2 triumph was further evidence that the 31-year-old is finding form just in time for Wimbledon.

Twice before, Tomljanovic has reached the last-eight at Wimbledon and her liking for grass courts was showcased once again as she dominated the young Canadian Fernandez after a puzzlingly dismal start.

"I'm a little bit surprised to be honest because I don't know what happened in that first set. I really felt a bit outplayed," Tomljanovic told the crowd at Edgbaston Priory.

Tomljanovic reckons she "absolutely hates playing lefties" and, with tongue firmly in cheek, blamed Swedish coach Robert Lindstedt for her lack of preparation as 21-year-old Fernandez took six straight games, including a break at the start of the second set.

"I was slow, so I definitely thought, 'this can't go any worse for me, so let's try to get more than one game on the board'," said Tomljanovic.

"I felt like once I got that second game in the second set, I relaxed a bit and then I kind of zoned in.

"If you told me at the beginning of tournament I'd be in the semis, I'd have signed for it - but once I'm on the court, that all kind of goes away and I definitely have a really high standard for my game and my results.

"I wish I was a bit more grateful about this win, because I should be. This is a great result for me!"

Potapova
Russia's Anastasia Potapova will be Tomljanovic's semi-final opponent in Birmingham. (AP PHOTO)

On Saturday, Tomljanovic, who's still seeking her maiden triumph at 250 level, has the opportunity to reach just her fifth WTA final when she tackles Russian world No.36 Anastasia Potapova, an opponent she leads 2-1 in head-to-heads.

The other semi pits Italian Elisabetta Cocciaretto against experienced Moscow-born Kazakh Yulia Putintseva.

In another, higher-powered WTA event in Berlin, the big story was the retirement through illness of 2022 Wimbledon champ Elena Rybakina.

She had been trailing Victoria Azarenka 3-1 in the first set and stopped playing in the fifth match, sitting on her bench, putting her hands to her face and not waiting for a medical evaluation before jogging back to the locker room.

In the rain-affected championship, current Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova had retired with a leg injury the previous day.

Two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka will face current Melbourne holder Aryna Sabalenka or Anna Kalinskaya in the semis.