Ajla Tomljanovic has capped off a rough day for Australian tennis after being forced to withdraw from the French Open due to a persistent knee injury. Tomljanovic had hoped to make her return at Roland Garros but confirmed her omission at the draw for the clay court grand slam, which proved pretty rough for several of her fellow Aussies.
The 46th-ranked Tomljanovic was always a slim chance at best of competing at Roland Garros but hadn't given up hope of featuring, having not played since last last year's Billie Jean King Cup Finals in November. The Aussie's best result at the French Open was a fourth-round appearance in 2014, but has not made it past the second round since.
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However, the 30-year-old enjoyed her best season in 2022 after making the last-eight at Wimbledon and the US Open, before she was sidelined with injury. Tomljanovic's world ranking would have been even better, had the ATP and WTA decided not to strip the tournament of ranking points in response to the All England Club's ban on Russian and Belarusian players.
The Aussie has sadly lost a race against the clock, reportedly still falling short of a comeback from her long-term knee injury. 😟🎾
Hope to see you back on court soon Ajla! 👏
📖 More: https://t.co/GdUPGyERJl#9WWOS #Tennis pic.twitter.com/LydjGOhOgb
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) May 25, 2023
Ajla Tomljanovic is out of the French Open. Was hoping to make her return from knee surgery but ran out of time. A lucky loser will replace her in the draw
— Marc McGowan 🗣✍️👨🏻💻📰 (@ByMarcMcGowan) May 25, 2023
Tomljanovic's scratching means Australia didn't have a direct entrant in the women's singles for the first time in the 55-year era of professional tennis, with compatriot Kim Birrell awarded a wildcard into the grand slam. It means Birrell is the only Australian confirmed in the women's singles draw.
Birrell's reward is she wins her first overseas grand slam match could be a difficult showdown with Swiss Olympic champion Belinda Bencic in round two.
Storm Hunter and Jaimee Fourlis are hoping to boost the depleted Aussie women's stocks, both one qualifying win away from making the main draw. Hunter, largely a doubles specialist, plays American teenager Ashlyn Krueger in the final round of qualifying, with Fourlis up against French home favourite Fiona Ferro.
French Open throws up tricky draw for Aussies
On the men's side, Alex de Minaur will begin his French Open against Belarusian world No.86 Ilya Ivashka, with the draw throwing up plenty of banana skins for the Aussie contingent. De Minaur is Australia's only seed this year and will be bidding to win his opening match on the red dirt for only the third time after four first-round exits from his six previous campaigns.
If he gets past Ivashka, the world No.19 will meet either Brit Jack Draper or Argentine Tomas Martin Etcheverry in the second round. With two wins, 18th-seeded de Minaur could potentially face either two-time finalist Dominic Thiem or 15th seed Borna Coric in round three.
New Australian No.3 Max Purcell has been pitted against Sydneysider Jordan Thompson in an all-Aussie opener, while the in-form Chris O'Connell has also copped a wretched draw. O'Connell, who was knocked out of the Geneva Open quarter-final on Thursday, opens against Japan's Taro Daniel, with the winner almost certain to face a second-round clash with World No.1 and men's title favourite, Carlos Alcaraz.
The Spanish young gun is also on the same side of the draw as 22-time grand slam champion Novak Djokovic, meaning the pair could meet in the semi-finals.
Wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis starts against British 20th seed Dan Evans, with former champion Stan Wawrinka possibly waiting in round two for the winner. Jason Kubler and former French Open junior boys' champion Alexei Popyrin will both play qualifiers in the first round.
With a win, Kubler would meet either Canadian 10th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime or Italian veteran Fabio Fognini in the second round. US 12th seed Frances Tiafoe would be Popyrin's likely second-round opponent.
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