Wimbledon First Round Preview: Ajla Tomljanovic vs Madison Keys

Madison Keys faces a tricky but winnable opener at the 2018 Wimbledon Championships, facing Ajla Tomljanovic to start her campaign at SW19.

A battle of hard-hitters will take place out on No.3 Court at the 2018 Wimbledon Championships on the opening day of competition tomorrow. The dangerous floater Ajla Tomljanovic looks to spoil the odds and upset 10th seed and dark horse Madison Keys, who is tipped to excel on the lawn courts here at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

The two players, who had previously played doubles together at the 2016 Australian Open, will compete out on No.3 Court after the men’s singles match between Sam Querrey and Jordan Thompson is concluded. This could well be a thrilling affair with both players contesting some tight contests previously, but Keys still comes into the match as the favourite.

Tomljanovic silently rises up in the rankings

Having started the year outside the top-100, Tomljanovic finally managed to find her vintage form once more. Strong performances in smaller tournaments saw the Croatian-turned-Australian reach her second WTA final in Rabat, an impressive run which pushed her back into the top-70 of the rankings for the first time since 2016 when she was ruled out for a year due to a shoulder injury.

Ajla Tomljanovic will look to create the upset on the opening day of play | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe
Ajla Tomljanovic will look to create the upset on the opening day of play | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe

Her preparation for Wimbledon was decent as she made the quarterfinals in Mallorca, where she lost to eventual finalist Anastasija Sevastova despite leading 6-3, 3-0; winning just one game after. However, Tomljanovic has gone 1-3 in her previous appearances at Wimbledon and her best performance on grass was the last eight appearance in Mallorca.

Can Keys finally unlock the keys to a deep Wimbledon run?

After a wrist injury which derailed her progress at the start of 2017, Keys made her maiden Major final at the US Open last year which allowed her to edge closer to a return to the top-10 after a long absence. Another excellent run to the last eight of the Australian Open this year saw the American continuing her run of good form, and despite a mid-season wobble, Keys rebounded to claim a semifinal finish at Roland Garros, which sealed her return to the top-10.

Madison Keys captured during a practice session at Wimbledon during the week | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Europe
Madison Keys captured during a practice session at Wimbledon during the week | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Europe

Her style of play is extremely suited to grass and she has always been a dark horse at Wimbledon ever since her unexpected triumph in Eastbourne back in 2014 when she was ranked 47th. She backed it up with consecutive second-week finishes at Wimbledon in the following years, with her second WTA grass-court title in Birmingham being an icing on the cake. However, a wrist injury resulted in a stunning second-round exit last year, falling to Camila Giorgi in three sets.

Head to Head: Previous encounters split between them

They first met at the Apia International Sydney in 2014, when Keys overcame a mid-match wobble to triumph 6-0, 3-6, 7-6 before Tomljanovic exacted revenge a year later, ousting the American 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 in Stanford. This will just be their third meeting but Keys will appreciate the fact that she is the favourite coming into the match.

Can Keys power her way to the win?

Tomljanovic will have the ability to blast winners after winners on an especially good day — but it will be extremely difficult for her to do against a player who is stronger than her. Keys, known for the explosiveness in her game, is expected to storm past the Australian and she will definitely be helped by the absence of huge media attention on her, which will give her less pressure to perform well at the big tournaments.

Madison Keys celebrates making the French Open semifinals a month ago. Can she make it four Major quarterfinal appearances in a row? | Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe
Madison Keys celebrates making the French Open semifinals a month ago. Can she make it four Major quarterfinal appearances in a row? | Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe

When facing a more powerful player of Keys’ calibre, it will be a tricky task for Tomljanovic to overpower her opponent and dictate player. The American’s game works well on grass and grabbing the win in straight sets should not pose much of a problem for her.

Match Prediction: Keys d. Tomljanovic in straight sets