French Open: Chris Evert Effect Inspiring Giant-Killer Ajla Tomljanovic
Ajla Tomljanovic was certainly feisty last year at the end of which she was ranked 78th in the world, improving from 495th -- the biggest ranking improvement by any player in the top 100. She beat third seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the French Open on Friday.
Chris Evert knows what it takes to win the French Open, her seven titles being the all-time best, and fast-rising Croatian Ajla Tomljanovic is hoping some of the American's Roland Garros savvy can rub off on her.
The 21-year-old, who has been training at Evert's tennis academy at Bradenton, Flordia since she was 13, reached the last 16 of a Grand Slam event for the first time on Friday, powering her way past third seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 6-4.
And with the top half of the draw wide open following the shock defeat of top seed Serena Williams, Tomljanovic has a golden opportunity to go deeper and make a name for herself.
It's the kind of scenario that Evert would have exploited to the full in her glory years in the 1970s and 80s and her inside knowledge has made a big difference for Tomljanovic.
"I'm very fortunate to have her in my corner," she said.
"Not only she helps me on the court, but we actually have a great relationship off the court.
"We get together when I'm in Boca (Raton). And, you know, she calls, I call her, she calls me.
"So it's really great for me to have her as a friend and as a mentor. She definitely has a ton of knowledge and that part in particular, I think she was very good at when she played or maybe the best.
"So it's kind of nice to see it from her perspective when she watches me play, to see if I'm nervous.
"She always thought I had good composure but maybe thought I could be a little bit more feisty out there."
Tomljanovic was certainly feisty last year at the end of which she was ranked 78th in the world, improving from 495th -- the biggest ranking improvement by any player in the top 100.
The previous year she was sidelined with a bout of mononucleosis and played in only six tournaments.
This year she lost in the third round at the Australian Open but more recently failed to qualify for the main draw at Madrid and Rome in the buildup to Roland Garros.
Evert apart, she has also benefitted from the work she has put in with David Taylor, the former coach of 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur.
"Last year was my comeback year from mono, and I think I got myself to 70 to finish the year, and I thought that was a good effort," she said.
"Then I started working in December with my new coach, Dave Taylor, and I really think that helped a lot, because he really implemented some things in my game that I really needed. I really owe him this win today, for sure."