Heartbreaking: Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic’s mighty comeback against grand slam champ ends with twin match point errors
Australia’s hopes of reaching the United Cup final hinge on the hot form of Alex de Minaur after a misfiring Ajla Tomljanovic imploded against Angelique Kerber.
Three-time grand slam winner Kerber claimed a 4-6 6-2 7-6 (9-7) victory in a helter-skelter opening rubber to put Germany 1-0 up in the tie and one win away from Sunday’s final against Poland.
Team Australia can still qualify for the final but need De Minaur to beat Alexander Zverev in the men’s singles and for Storm Hunter and Matthew Ebden to triumph in the mixed doubles.
De Minaur, who defeated World No.1 Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals, trails 6-1 in his head-to-head with the oft-hotheaded Zverev.
But it need not have been so difficult for the home side when Tomljanovic stepped onto court at Sydney’s Ken Rosewall Arena on Saturday and looked a cut above the experienced German.
While Tomljanovic lost serve on the first game of the match she was composed as she fought back and broke Kerber twice to take a 5-1 lead in the set.
Each one of the Australian’s forehands found the furthest corners of the court and Kerber was left chasing her tail.
But then Kerber showed the characteristics that once earned her the world No.1 ranking.
She roared back to trail 5-4 before Tomljanovic survived two break points to eke out the set.
Tomljanovic’s wobbles stretched into the second set, Kerber toying with her as the German squared the match in a little over half an hour.
The pair traded blows throughout an absorbing third set with Tomljanovic able to dig deep and send the match to a tiebreak.
The Australian had two match points, but Kerber kept a cool head and then ruthlessly sealed victory in over two and a half hours of play.
It was Kerber’s first win in singles tennis since returning from the birth of her first child.
“Ajla played amazingly and we were both on a high level,” Kerber said.
“It’s my first singles win since coming back and it’s a great feeling.
“Coming out and having such a tough battle and it means a lot to have a match like this before going to the Australian Open.”