Returning Tomljanovic believing again ahead of the Open

Done with moping, Ajla Tomljanovic is convinced "special things can happen" this summer when Australia's returning tennis star strives to right the wrongs of a depressing 10 months out of the game.

Almost a year after being forced out of the Australian Open with a knee injury just as she was poised to nab a first-time grand slam seeding in Melbourne, Tomljanovic is finally back and feeling upbeat again.

The three-time grand slam quarter-finalist will need to use a protected ranking to make the Open main draw, but is adamant she can scale the heights again after regaining confidence in her movement following surgery in January.

"I honestly do believe that I can get back to that level (of contending for slams) if I get healthy, which I believe I'm already there," Tomljanovic told AAP on Wednesday.

"Maybe there's 15 per cent left that I still need to get back to, but I think it is within my reach."

The Florida-based, Croatian-born talent was flying before injury struck her down, becoming the first Australian since the great Evonne Goolagong in 1979 to reach the Wimbledon and US Open quarter-finals in the same season.

Serena Williams (left) congratulates Ajla Tomljanovic
Serena Williams (left) congratulates Ajla Tomljanovic for her victory at the 2022 US Open.

She also famously ended Serena Williams' incomparable career in New York to crown a heady 14 months of three last-eight major appearances.

While retaining a level of frustration at possibly being robbed of her best years, a hearty dose of perspective is now driving Tomljanovic's comeback from the "scary" realisation that her career may be over.

"I'd be lying if this year there haven't been random moments where I was with my team and I'm like, 'this is just so unlucky what happened because I was at my best and I got so unlucky','' Tomljanovic said.

"You can't control this injury, and the doubt and the fear was always that maybe this will be it.

"But I can't live in the past, and I felt stupid calling it unfair when there were wars happening in the world and kids dying.

"So I very quickly got it out of my system. 

"I just want to accept it and move forward and just believe that if I get healthy I can still play my best tennis.

"And if I didn't think that, I probably wouldn't keep trying."

Tomljanovic, who turns 31 in May, also believes time remains on her side in an era of 40 often proving to be the new 30 in professional sport, thanks to diet and science.

"I don't feel like I'm 30 even though I am,'' she said.

"I know my body doesn't lie, but having just a few setbacks over the years, I do feel very fresh in my mind.''

Tomljanovic will launch her summer spearheading Australia's United Cup campaign in Perth from December 29.

Playing alongside the likes of men's world No.12 Alex de Minaur, women's doubles world No.1 Storm Hunter and retiring former US Open quarter-finalist John Millman, Tomljanovic believes Australia - finalists in both the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup over the past 13 months - can advance from a tough pool featuring defending champions the US and Great Britain.

Either way, she will round out her Australian Open preparations at the Adelaide International from January 8-13.

"Coming into the early summer, I believe that special things can happen," Tomljanovic said.

"Yeah, it would be amazing to make quarters or more  in Melbourne.

"But I also am kind of going back to being just a kid playing again because I'm excited to just be part of these events again because you don't know how well you're going to do until you step on the court." 

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