Croatian Ajla Tomljanovic will start representing Australia at the upcoming US Open and her decision to change citizenship caused an outrage in her birth country. Some days after the news had been announced, the world No.55 lost in the first round of this week’s Stanford tournament to Andrea Petkovic 6-1 6-4 and the defeat was a great occasion for her enraged nationals to insult and attack her.
On her Facebook page Ajla received loads of comments calling her a cheap and shameful person, a traitor, and similar things. Some people said that athletes like her don’t even deserve the Croatian flag and should receive a lifetime ban from entering Croatia. However, a lot of people also expressed their support for Ajla and said that she should not pay attention to harmful and stupid comments.
Here’s how Ajla commented on the situation [translated by myself from Croatian]:
I am not disappointed in the Croatian Tennis Association, as I am aware of what the Croatian Tennis Association is. For a long time already I haven’t expected anyone’s help regarding my career and all my results I have achieved by myself and with the help of my family. I believe that Australia, with the services that I will have available there, will help me make my dreams come true.
The 21-year-old Tomljanovic will probably opt for Brisbane as her residence, because they have an amazing tennis center there, the city is nice and she has relatives not far away. (source: Kurir, photo: Jimmie48)
At first her decision seemed a bit odd to me(why Australia?) but now I’m starting to understand at least a part of the reasons that made her do it.
I always hate it when people are being that rude towards athletes and I remember the case of Rebecca Marino, a talented young Canadian player, who eventually ended her career because of cyberbullying and depression. It’s just awful.
As an Aussie tennis fan this is great news for us as Ajla is a great talent. Even I have to admit this news did come out of nowhere & surprised me! If anything I thought she may have defected to America having spent most of her younger years there.. Not sure if her coach influenced her or whether she has family here, needless to say she will be welcomed with open arms by Tennis Australia. I can understand Croatian fans being disappointed, hoping it doesn’t get too ugly for all involved. Croats are very proud, traditional people so it will be difficult for some to understand her choices.
Tenniz-fan, coming from Serbia where many of our athletes also changed nationalities, I can say that it’s always disappointing but it is something reasonable and absolutely acceptable since everyone’s making decisions for their personal benefit.
PeteTweet, actually Tennis Australia suggested it and Ajla accepted it. Here’s quote from ACELAND Tennis:
“Her father Ratko later said on Croatian radio that TA approached the Tomljanovics about her becoming an Australian. Ratko also said they were not considering changing nationalities when they first moved to the United States.
‘The contact came spontaneously, where the wishes of both sides were the same, so everything was going like it should go,’ Tomljanovic said.”
Thanks Marija, was wondering how it all came about & now I have all the info I needed! Looking forward to see how it all progresses.
PeteTweet, you’re welcome 🙂
Yes, it’s definitely disappointing when your own country’s athlete changes nationality. Some of my country’s promising athletes have done that too. But it’s not very nice to see people go that far about it :-/ Anyway, the future of Croatian tennis still looks pretty bright with promising young players such as Donna Vekic, Ana Konjuh and Borna Coric (ATP) rising up the rankings.
Let me give you guys a little bit of information. I played junior tennis in Croatia in the late 80s and early 90s. When I first started it was still Yugoslavia and support from the federation was limited at best. This was also around the time when Nick’s academy became extremely popular as well with Andre, Jim and Monica Seles being his star pupils. Most wealthy folks in Yug and Croatia would fund their kids expenses and if you did well and got ranked and made to the national team, you would get some support with travelling and other expenses from the tennis federation. I went on to get a full tennis ride in the US which provided me with daily tennis training, cardio, nutrition etc. While I was not good enough to make a living out of the sport, I enjoyed my career tremendously. Now, as Marija mentioned, Croatians are very proud of their heritage and have been vocal about Ajla’s move. What I’ve heard from the HTS (Croatian Tennis Association) they provided about $100k in support to Ajla over the past 4-5 years. Normally, if you’re a touring professional, you will incur anywhere from $80k-$100K plus in annual cost between travelling, coaching, physio and other expenses. While the support from the HTS was not enough for Ajla’s expenses, it was there. Naturally, a much wealthier nation like AUS will be able to provide more. But at a certain point, it is athlete’s responsibility to make her/his own living through earnings, sponsorships etc. Why is it HTS’ responsibility to provide the additional support? It really bothers me when athletes switch their loyalties (like all the tennis folks who play for Kazakhstan) and I think the rules should be more restrictive like they are in soccer. This is not club tennis where you can pick and choose who to represent. Bottom line, while I understand Ajla’s monetary reasoning for switching, it makes me think of her less as a person. It’s sad when you sell your own national identity for $$. If you’re not good enough to make it happen with your results, perhaps you should not play competitive tennis. Just my opinion.
Croatian, thank you for sharing your insight and for giving us a thorough perspective on Ajla’s move. I understand your point. I generally tend to defend players because they have one life and one youth to prosper in their careers and if they have a chance to make the best of it, i.e. to receive all the political and financial support, then why not.