Nick Kyrgios was only 19 years old when he last made a major quarter-final, while Ajla Tomljanović’s first trip to the last eight came just last year.
Most important points:
- Nick Kyrgios and Ajla Tomljanović were two of four Australians in the fourth round
- Kyrgios said he enjoyed a tight game even as he played among his best for the first time in his career
- Tomljanović was defeated in the quarterfinals last year by eventual champion Ash Barty
The times between drinks were vastly different, but both take the time to remind themselves to enjoy their return to the Wimbledon quarter-finals.
In 2021, then world No. 75 Tomljanović stormed into her first major quarter-final in a run so shocking she forgot to appreciate what she was doing.
“I have such fond memories of last year and I look back on that week a year ago and I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I should have,” she said at the track after beating Alizé Cornet.
Tomljanović’s run in 2021 ended in the hands of compatriot Ash Barty, but she said the match with the then world number one gave her the confidence to step into Barty’s shoes as the top-ranked Australian woman at this year’s championships.
The 29-year-old said she felt she “can take on anyone” after she last faced the eventual champion, but hopefully her quarter-final duel with 17th-seeded Kazakh Elena Rybakina is “a bit more of a competition”.
“I think the experience of moving on quickly and forgetting the positive emotions and just thinking about the next game will help me,” she said.
Kyrgios’ memories of making it to the last eight in the All England Club are perhaps a little more hazy than his compatriot.
He hadn’t made it past the fourth round since his first wild card appearance in the main draw at Wimbledon in 2014, but the 27-year-old, perhaps for the first time in his career, is openly talking about how much he wants to win it all this year.
“I’m not thinking about lifting a trophy or making it to the semis or making it to the finals.”
While trying to win the tournament may not sound like anything special, admitting he wants to go all out marks a shift for Kyrgios, who has often been apathetic or even dismissive about having high goals in tennis.
While some of his performances at this year’s tournament have been as erratic as ever – complete with spitting at fans, the usual sparring with the media and calls for an opponent’s default – Kyrgios’ level of play has remained consistently high.
Kyrgios admitted about his previous years that it may not have been the best preparation for his 2019 second round match against Rafael Nadal.
He says he got his life back on track because he was able to take it out between matches and concentrate when he went to the field, putting him in a better position for a possible rematch with Nadal in the semi-finals.
“I smiled and almost laughed to myself, just knowing I was locked in an absolute struggle, which I couldn’t enjoy in the past,” he said of his 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/2 ), 3-6, 6-2 victory over Brandon Nakashima.
He said it’s “probably the first time in” [his] career” that he was able to take in the moment, despite not playing as well as he would have liked.
“Playing in Wimbledon center court, full crowd; I could just say, ‘Wow, look how far I’ve come,'” he said.
“I bounced the ball before I served and I just smiled to myself. I was like, ‘We’re here, we’re competing at Wimbledon and we’re putting in a good performance mentally’. It was worth it.”
He suggested that one of the biggest changes for him was that he was no longer the fighter, with a formidable record, especially on grass.
Twenty-year-old Nakashima took the fight to Kyrgios with the same kind of nothing-to-lose approach that a young Kyrgios, unburdened by years of expectation and unfulfilled potential, once played.
“I expect everyone to play well against me now,” he said.
“I was once that kid who stepped on that field as an underdog, where today I was the favorite walking center court. It was very different for me, but I was able to navigate that.
“I’ve come a long way, that’s for sure.”