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Australian tennis pro Ajla Tomljanovic will face off against Serena Williams in the third round of the U.S. Open as she pursues a record-breaking 24th Grand Slam title. For Tomljanovic though, win or lose, it is a matchup she will never forget.
The 29-year-old Tomljanovic, who has never played against Williams, advanced to the third round on Wednesday after defeating Russia's Evgeniya Rodina 1-6, 6-2, 7-5. While the goal is to win, Tomljanovic will be fulfilling a childhood dream.
“It's going to be a huge moment no matter the outcome. I've been a Serena fan since I was a kid. On Friday night I'll just be a competitor, and I'll try my best to win,” she told reporters after the match, via Reuters.
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Earlier this month, Williams announced her plans to retire, leaving many to speculate that the U.S. Open might be her last tournament. With that in mind, Tomljanovic admitted that she knows the way the crowd will lean.
“I was playing on Court 7 both of my matches so far at the same time as her, and I could hear the crowd. I’m like, ‘Court 7 isn’t that close.’ I kept thinking, ‘Oh, my God, that’s annoying me, and I’m not even playing against her,’” she said. “I don’t know how I’m going to do it.”
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Williams eliminated No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-2 on Wednesday night to move on to the third round. Despite her desire to win, Tomljanovic was not shy about giving credit to Williams’ accomplishments.
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“She's paved the way for so many, inspired me to go for my dreams. Even her longevity. I'm kind of in the part of my career now where they call you on the older side. She's made that kind of nonexistent. ‘Old' is not even a word in her vocabulary. Very grateful to her like that.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.