Home » Ajla eyes Olympics after two-year hell amid 25-year Aussie record: French Open Talking Pts

Ajla eyes Olympics after two-year hell amid 25-year Aussie record: French Open Talking Pts

Ajla eyes Olympics after two-year hell amid 25-year Aussie record: French Open Talking Pts

All eyes will be on Rafael Nadal when the 14-time French Open champion begins what appears likely to be his final Roland Garros in an outing against German star Alexander Zverev on Monday in Paris.

But there is plenty of action on day one of the clay court major as well, with Australians Ajla Tomljanovic, Jordan Thompson and Aleks Vukic in action.

Four-time major champion Naomi Osaka kicks off the action on Philippe Chatrier Stadium against Lucia Bronzetti on a day that also sees reigning Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz return to the court after some injury concerns.

The highlight of the day is the meeting between two grand masters who have scaled the greatest heights in tennis.

Similarly to Nadal, three-time major champions Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka might well be on their final lap of the circuit and their meeting on Sunday night is nostalgic given their grand deeds on the court and against each other.

Former French Open champion Stan Wawrinka will play fellow three-time major champion Andy Murray in the highlight of the opening day of play at the 2024 edition of Roland Garros. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Former French Open champion Stan Wawrinka will play fellow three-time major champion Andy Murray in the highlight of the opening day of play at the 2024 edition of Roland Garros. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Get on board Kayo and watch every game of every round of the NRL + AFL Seasons live and ad break free during play. New to Kayo? Start Your Free Trial Today >

AUSSIE AJLA EYES THE OLYMPICS AS SHE MAKES A WELCOME RETURN TO ROLAND GARROS

Ajla Tomljanovic has endured a wretched time since reaching back-to-back quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2022 and the Australian is hoping for a change of fortune.

The 31-year-old, who ended Serena Williams career at the US Open a couple of years ago, managed to play just a couple of tournaments last year due to a knee injury.

Tomljanovic was able to play at home this summer, where she reached an encouraging level, but then underwent surgery to remove uterine tumours in February.

Ajla Tomljanovic in hospital. Pic: InstagramSource: Supplied

Back on court a week ago in Parma, she scored a good first round win before a neck complaint forced her to withdraw early in her second match.

But Tomljanovic, who plays surprise Australian Open semi finalist Dayana Yastremska in the first round in Paris on Sunday, is looking forward to the outing.

“It’s been a while. I’m really excited to be here,” she said on Saturday.

“I definitely wish I could have had a few more matches coming in, but it’s also okay because, if you’re ready, you’re ready.

“I believe that I can still reach where I’ve been and possibly … that my best tennis is still ahead of me. I still firmly believe that, so all these setbacks are just setbacks.”

Serena’s US Open run ends | 03:17

Tomljanovic, who has reached two Wimbledon quarterfinals, is looking forward to a European summer which includes a return to the All England Club and then the opportunity to represent Australia in the Olympics, with the tennis to be held at Roland Garros as well.

“In my mind, I’m like ‘Okay, this is preparation for the Olympics,’” she said.

“And then I’ve got the grass (with) a nice little schedule where I’m going to get at least four events before Wimbledon, which is really nice. So hopefully I can execute that and when the Olympics come I feel like my form can definitely be in a different place to where it is now.”

Ajla Tomljanovic, pictured after a loss to Jelena Ostapenko in Melbourne in January, returns to Roland Garros and is the sole Aussie woman in action on the first day.Source: AFP

‘She’s absolutely keen’; Aussie star Ajla Tomljanovic edges closer to another tour comeback

ALEKS VUKIC HAS A RARE CLAIM TO FAME AT ROLAND GARROS AS HE BIDS FOR FIRST MAIN DRAW WIN

Jordan Thompson and Aleks Vukic round out the Aussies in action on the opening day of Roland Garros when they play back-to-back matches on Court 14.

The duo are among a group of nine Australian men competing in the main draw this year, which is the nation’s largest contingent of men at the French Open since 1999.

Thompson, who claimed an ATP Tour title in Los Cabos in February and peaked at a career-high ranking of 32, reached the third round at Roland Garros back in 2019.

The red dirt is not his favourite surface but he performed well in Houston in April when reaching the quarterfinals. He also won a round in Barcelona before early exits in Madrid and Rome.

The Sydneysider, who was in good spirits after a training session on Saturday, faces Max Marterer, who reached the last 16 in Paris in 2018 and is better than his ranking of 99 suggests.

“He is a tough opponent. I mean, he’s made the fourth round of slams, one being here,” Thompson said.

“(He is a) lefty, a tricky opponent and I’d say he likes the clay more than I do. It’s just going to be another tough slog on the clay.”

Vukic opens against trailblazing Chinese talent Zhizhen Zhang, who was the first man from his nation to break into the top 100 and recently reached the quarterfinals of the Italian Open.

Vukic, who is also from Sydney, will play in the Roland Garros main draw for the first time since 2020, a year which will live in his memory for a significant reason.

The right-hander happened to notch a decent first round win in qualifying that year over an emerging talent by the name of Carlos Alcaraz, who has gone on to far bigger things since.

ONE LAST ROLAND GARROS FOR GRAND MASTERS

The spotlight is understandably on Rafael Nadal given the probability this Roland Garros will be his last, but there are several other intriguing first round clashes in the event beginning on Sunday.

The highlight is a nostalgic clash between three-time major champions Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray, with the prospect this will also be their final French Open appearances.

In a quirk, should Wawrinka succeed, he will be the man Murray has played in his final three Roland Garros matches.

The Swiss champion defeated Murray in a quality semi-final in 2017. He then defeated the dual-Wimbledon champion in the first round in 2020.

Four years later, with Murray having missed the past three French Opens for various reasons, they meet again. Murray has done well to make it to Roland Garros after seriously injuring his ankle last month.

Wawrinka, who has won an Australian Open (2014), a French Open (2015) and a US Open (2016), and was also a finalist in Paris in 2017, is the superior clay court player. But the 39-year-old, who peaked at No.3 in 2014, would not argue the Scot has had the superior career.

Aside from Murray’s two Wimbledon crowns in 2013 and 2016, which followed his US Open triumph in 2012, the 37-year-old also reached five Australian Open finals and the decider in Paris in 2016 after beating Wawrinka in four sets in a semifinal.

At different stages there has been debate as to whether there truly was a ‘Big Four’ in tennis given Novak Djokovic (24), Rafael Nadal (22) and Roger Federer (20) finished well in front of Murray on the major table.

But Wawrinka has no doubts about the former world No.1s greatness.

“Even if it didn’t look like it, Andy would always find a way,” Wawrinka told The Times.

“He would find a way to win the point and find a way out of defence. When you think he is not going to reach the ball, he would find a passing shot.”

Murray leads their head-to-head 13-9 going into their final duel on clay. While overshadowed by the other big rivalries, it has been a ripper in its own right.

YOUNG GUNS DECLARE FITNESS CONCERNS ARE BEHIND THEM

Roland Garros is not just the domain of the greats this year and there is intrigue surrounding the fitness of young sensations Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner.

Alcaraz, who is the youngest man in the Open era to reach the last 16 in seven consecutive majors, has been troubled by a forearm injury throughout the clay court season.

PARIS, FRANCE – MAY 24: Carlos Alcaraz of Spain speaks with the ball kids after applying ISDIN Sunscreen after a training session during the French Open at Roland Garros on May 24, 2024 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images for ISDIN)Source: Getty Images

A semi finalist last year, the reigning Wimbledon champion withdrew from an opening round match in Monte Carlo, skipped Barcelona, battled to the quarterfinals in Madrid and then opted against playing in Rome in the hope of overcoming the issue.

A champion at Indian Wells in March, the dual-major winner plays American J.J. Wolf in the opening round and said that while his physical condition is improving every day, he still has some concerns.

“What I remember is the (doctors) told me that this is not going to be serious, it’s not going to take too much time, but here we are recovering,” he said.

“I’m not feeling any pain in the practices when I step on the court. But I’m still thinking about it when I (am) hitting forehands. I’m going to say I’m a little bit scared about hitting every forehand 100 percent.”

Sinner, meanwhile, is in Paris after reports from Italy last week that he would be unlikely to play Roland Garros after a hip injury forced him from the Rome Masters.

The Australian Open champion, who has won 28 of the 30 matches he has played this year, was a quarterfinalist in Paris on debut in 2020 but has failed to match those deeds since.

His best efforts in the clay court Masters events are semifinals in Monte Carlo over the past two years.

“I’m not concerned anymore about my hip. The last tests we made, they were very positive. That’s why I’m here. I said I come only here if the hip (is) in a good shape,” he said.

“The general physical shape is not perfect. I didn’t play tennis in nearly three weeks, which is quite a lot, no, before a grand slam.

“This is a little bit different approach to a tournament than it used to be (and hopefully) the first round can help me a little bit (with) finding my rhythm.

“Most importantly it’s going to be the mental side, of being mentally ready, accepting things that could happen on the court and then seeing what I can do.”