Ajla Tomljanovic admits it's "the worst feeling" having to retire from a final but the Croatian still managed to give a classy runner-up speech, paying tribute to Belinda Bencic, who defeated her to claim the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge title in Dubai on Saturday.
Tomljanovic retired while down 4-6 in the Dubai final due to a groin injury she picked up at the end of her semi-final the previous day.
"I just felt my groin in the previous match, like two points before the finish," the 24-year-old told Sport360.
"It was a sharp pain. I thought today, sleeping through the night and kind of letting it recover it would be okay but it just kept getting worse the longer it was going on.
"And yeah, against a player like Belinda you have to be fully ready to run and play and when you’re kind of thinking about, that you’re hurting and stuff, it’s tough to play. I hate retiring, even more in the finals, it’s probably the worst feeling but it is what it is."
Belinda Bencic will spend Christmas on a plane from the UAE to Australia but the Swiss youngster is not complaining, especially after she wrapped up her 2017 season with a title victory at the $100k Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge in Dubai on Saturday.
Bencic finished the year by claiming a 15th consecutive match win and a third title in a row by defeating Croatian Ajla Tomljanovic, who retired with a groin injury while down 4-6 in their final on Saturday afternoon.
“Definitely not the way I wanted to win. I’m very sad for Ajla but hopefully it’s really nothing too bad and just precautionary,” said the 20-year-old Bencic, who came back from wrist surgery in September and has won four trophies since.
“I won the tournament so I’m very happy about it, and obviously to finish the year with a win is great, that’s the first time I think I’ve done it so it feels good. I’m playing really good now so I’m happy about it.”
In the Dubai final, Bencic was the first to save break points in the match but inched ahead 4-3 by breaking the Tomljanovic serve. The Croatian then took an off-court medical timeout to treat a groin problem and broke back for 4-all upon her return. But Tomljanovic, clearly hampered in her movement, was broken at love the following game and she was forced to retire after dropping the opening set.
Former top-50 player Ajla Tomljanovic admits that patience has never been her strongest suit but says she is approaching her comeback from a lengthy injury break with newfound perspective.
The 24-year-old Croatian, who reached the semi-finals of the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge with a 7-5, 7-5 win over Poland's Magdalena Frech in Dubai on Thursday, spent 13 months sidelined from the sport dealing with a shoulder injury before returning to action in Acapulco end of last February.
Tomljanovic was unranked when she came back to competition but has managed to climb up to her current ranking of 130 thanks to a third round appearance in Miami, a second round showing at the US Open and some positive results on the ITF circuit that included two final runs at $60k and $80k tournaments in the United States.
This week, she's competing at the $100k ITF Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge in Dubai, where she faces Switzerland's Stefanie Voegele in the semi-finals on Friday.
A title win on Saturday would take her to the brink of the top-100.