Tomljanovic will channel Djokovic in US Open duel with Serena

·2-min read

Ajla Tomljanovic will channel the fighting spirit of Novak Djokovic when she confronts Serena Williams and a baying, partisan crowd of more than 20,000 people at the US Open on Friday.

The 29-year-old Australian will attempt to push the American icon closer to retirement in their third round clash.

So far, Danka Kovinic and world number two Anett Kontaveit have tried and failed to derail the Serena express at a tournament where the American is a six-time champion.

Kontaveit admitted the cauldron-like atmosphere of the Arthur Ashe Stadium, the biggest arena in tennis, had left her intimidated in her three-set loss in the second round

"It was hard. I knew it was coming. It was something I never experienced before," said the shellshocked Estonian.

However, Tomljanovic, the Zagreb-born Australian, believes she can take a page out of the Djokovic playbook for the Friday night clash.

Djokovic has always struggled to win the crowds at the Slams where affections are often reserved for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

"I remember Novak saying when the crowd was against him, he just pretends it's for him. When they chant, Rafa, Roger, whoever, he hears Novak, Novak," said Tomljanovic.

"I kind of liked that response. I might use that on Friday night."

The 29-year-old is no stranger to upsetting home hopes at a Grand Slam.

At Wimbledon last year, she faced down Centre Court before Emma Raducanu was forced to retire from their last-16 clash.

"I remember coming off that match and thinking, Wow, that was intense. I mean, it got to me a little bit, the volume of the crowd," admitted Tomljanovic.

The Australian certainly has a game big enough to disrupt Williams.

She has hit 14 aces in her two rounds so far, just six behind the American.

When she made the last-eight at Wimbledon in 2021 and again this year, it took eventual champions Ashleigh Barty and Elena Rybakina to stop her.

Friday, however, will be a different proposition.

"Serena kind of has that aura like Roger, Rafa, and deservedly so. I always get happy when she says hi to me," admitted the world number 46.

"I think it's hard to block out when she's standing across the net. It's a little surreal to me that I made it, and played in the same era as her."

Tomljanovic said it has been a dream of hers to face Williams even though she can now go down in tennis folklore as the player who sends the 23-time major winner into retirement.

"It's going to be a huge moment no matter the outcome," she said.

"No matter the fact that 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."