Australia’s Ajla Tomljanović has come achingly close to claiming the biggest scalp of her career falling just short against world number two Simona Halep

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Ajla Tomljanović plays a forehand return

Australia’s Ajla Tomljanović has come achingly close to claiming the biggest scalp of her career, falling just short against world number two Simona Halep in their Australian Open second-round clash.

Key points:

  • Tomljanović served for the match when she led 5-3 in the third set
  • Halep won five consecutive games to claim victory over the Australian
  • Naomi Osaka recorded a 6-2, 6-3 win over Caroline Garcia

Tomljanović served for the match at 5-3 in the third set, but the reigning Wimbledon champion steamed back to win five games in a row to secure a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory on Margaret Court Arena.

In other results on Wednesday evening, Naomi Osaka posted a regulation straight-sets victory over Caroline Garcia, and Alexander Zverev enjoyed a comfortable win in his match with Maxime Cressy.

Tomljanović’s clash with Halep was a high-quality contest that lasted two hours and 34 minutes.

The 72nd-ranked Australian used her big groundstrokes to pummel the Romanian, who was a semi-finalist at Melbourne Park last year and runner-up in 2018, but fell agonisingly short.

She has long craved a big-name win and a strong performance at her home major, where she has never made it past the second round.

Her best-ever showing at a major was a round-four appearance at the French Open back in 2014.

Tomljanović looked to have Halep, who is coached by Australian Darren Cahill, on the ropes when she broke in the third set and served for the match.

But the pressure got to the 27-year-old and she saw her lead slip away as former world number one Halep grew in belief.

“I was not that positive (at 5-2) but I think mentally I was a little bit stronger than her,” Halep said.

“I had the desire to win the match and didn’t want to give up.”

Halep said she knew the danger that Tomljanović presented despite her lack of success at the majors.

“I was expecting that she would play very hard and very strong,” Halep said.

“I expected it to be a difficult match but it was more than I thought.

“But I’m really happy that I can smile now.”

Alex Bolt stretches for a one-handed backhand, with his eight arm raised above his head

Alex Bolt lost to Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets.(AP: Andy Brownbill)

Meanwhile, Alex Bolt’s run ended at the hands of Bulgarian veteran Grigor Dimitrov.

Bolt fought tooth and nail in the first set, losing out only in a tie break.

However, the 18th seed then powered on in the remaining sets, winning 7-6 (7-1), 6-1, 6-2 on Margaret Court Arena.

Osaka through to second round

Osaka, who won the title at Melbourne Park in 2019, was in full control of her 6-2, 6-3 win over France’s Garcia.

The reigning US Open champion next faces world number 30 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia.

After taking just 61 minutes to secure the win against Garcia, the third-seeded Osaka said she was satisfied with her display.

“It felt good,” she said.

“It’s really hard to play opponents like her because you never know what she’s going to do and how hard she’s going to hit.”

Zverev progressed to the third round of the men’s draw with a 7-5, 6-4, 6-3 defeat of American qualifier Cressy.

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