11th seed Jelena Ostapenko will rekindle a heated rivalry with home crowd favorite Ajla Tomljanovic on Thursday, and ardent tennis fans might need an extra bag of popcorn kernels just in case the match goes down the stretch as it did in London in 2021.
The interesting part of the backstory stemmed from a third-round match at Wimbledon, which Tomljanovic won in three sets. But the score only tells half of the story. Midway through the third set of that match, the Australian accused Ostapenko of feigning an injury when the Latvian called for a medical time-out.
Trailing 0-4 in the deciding set, Ostapenko moved to her chair and requested a trainer because of an obscure abdominal pain. The umpire obliged, and Ostapeko got off-court treatment lasting no fewer than 10 minutes, much to Tomljanovic's fury. There is plentiful evidence that some players do it for the wrong reasons.
"You know she is lying," Tomljanovic made a stunning remark at the umpire and requested the tournament supervisor be called on the court. Upon resumption of play, once Ostapenko returned to the court, Tomljanovic coolly finished the match, winning the final set 6-2.
Things boiled over at the net. As the pair shook hands, Ostapeko told Tomljanovic, "If you think I'm faking it, you can go talk to the physio," to which Tomljanovic responded, "I hope you feel better."
And in an instant, Ostapeko slammed the Aussie, calling her behavior in the match "terrible" and saying she had "zero respect" for her. In her post-match press conference, the Latvian branded Tomljanovic as the "worst player on tour."
Tomljanovic argued that Ostapenko delayed taking an injury timeout until late in the set. She had been in a similar predicament before during a match in the Hua Hin final in 2019, leading 5-2 in the deciding set, when her opponent, Dayana Yastremska, took a strategic medical timeout and won four straight games. Tomljanovic lost the match in a tiebreaker.
Ostapenko and Tomljanovic have actually met following that Wimbledon match. In the second round of Eastbourne in 2022, the former French Open champion completed a 6-4, 6-4 win. But Thursday's intoxicating match in front of Tomljanovic's home fans promises plenty of fireworks.