Kevin Costner has made some great baseball movies about the sport, which is such a wonderful metaphor for life. In For the love of the game he explains why great athletes often seem simplistic, almost naïve, when they use phrases like “just think about the next point”, “just play my game” or “give everything”. The shooter he plays is about to deliver a perfect game, but suddenly he’s thinking about everything else: the size of the moment, his entire life. What he does: He only focuses on the catcher’s glove – where the ball has to go.
“You have to be Kevin Costner today”: That’s what Ratko Tomljanovic told his daughter Ajla before the game against Serena Williams said. Ratko Tomljanovic was a handball player, captain of the Croatian national team. So he knows that these often hollow-sounding statements are by no means meaningless, but an apt description of what athletes sometimes have to do if they want to be successful: be in the moment, reduce everything to the essentials.
She was already in the semi-finals at Wimbledon
That helped Ajla Tomljanovic against Williams; it also helped her on Sunday night against Russia’s Lyudmila Samsonova, when she saved eight set points from her opponent in the first round, won the tie-break and then only watched Samsonova’s nervous tension. Tomljanovic is a really good tennis player, she knows that, everyone knows that; but there is, as the Australian says of herself, the “bad Ajla”: someone who thinks about everything, questions everything, who is angry about yesterday and worried about tomorrow. One that often forgets where the ball needs to go due to all the distractions.
Her career has taken her to No. 38 in the world which is a fantastic achievement; but one that Tomljanovic himself is not happy with. She saw herself as one of the top twenty players in the world, maybe even top ten, and now, at the age of 29 and with the Kevin Costner method, it works: Quarterfinals in Wimbledon, after the 7: 6 (8) , 6:0 against Samsonowa now quarterfinals also in New York.
“The last 48 hours have cost a lot of energy because a lot of people congratulated and so on,” said Tomljanovic after the game: “I had to be careful not to lose focus, and that is: get far in Grand Slam tournaments .” In the quarter-finals she meets the Tunisian Ons Jabeur, who had reached the final at Wimbledon – and should have won it. Who was one of the favorites at the French Open before and failed in the first round. She, too, is regarded as a highly talented person whose nerves sometimes play tricks on her. So it will also be a duel about who can hide what and concentrate on the essentials. Tomljanovic now knows that since her Kevin Costner appearance against Williams, nobody can deny how to do it.