Daria Gavrilova eager to continue her fairytale run at Australian Open

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Daria Gavrilova.

When Daria Gavrilova broke serve for a 10-9 lead in the deciding set against Kristina Mladenovic in their third round on Friday, the Russian-turned-Aussie quickly put her finger to her lips, asking the crowd not to applaud her opponent’s double fault.

Almost three hours into what had been a brutal battle, Gavrilova’s class shone through in the tightest of moments.

The 21-year-old had failed to close out the match earlier on her serve but did not falter the second time around, as she overcame the talented Mladenovic to reach the fourth round at a grand slam for the first time in her career.

Gavrilova, the WTA’s Newcomer of the Year award recipient who rose almost 200 spots in the rankings in 2015 to get to her current position at No39, has been gaining plenty of fans over the past 10 days in Melbourne, especially when the home crowd realised she officially became an Aussie citizen last month.

Feisty, confident, and all about heart, Gavrilova will face No10 seed Carla Suarez Navarro on Sunday looking to continue her fairytale run.

She admits it was tough to get some shut-eye after her marathon win over Mladenovic, but was able to get some fun on court when she played mixed doubles with her Aussie boyfriend Luke Saville in the first round Saturday (they lost to Yaroslava Shvedova and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi).

“It was unbelievable, last night I couldn’t sleep at all, I was so hyped up. Just winning that match point was the best feeling,” said Gavrilova of her Mladenovic victory.

“I don’t feel any pressure, but I really want to keep going and keep winning. I’m just building my own pressure.”

Gavrilova has been living in Australia for almost four years and got her passport in December. She left Russia when she was 12 years old to pursue tennis and spent time training in Paris, at the Mouratoglou Academy, as well as Germany before relocating to the southern hemisphere.

She says her parents have been texting her “Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi, oi, oi” but in Russian alphabet to support her throughout the past week and she has embraced all the local chants and cheers that have come her way.

“I’ve been living here for almost four years and I absolutely love it. Everyone has welcomed me, so I feel Australian,” said Gavrilova, who is commonly known as Dasha.

“I get a bit of attention now. I don’t mind it to be honest. I love the crowd, and I love to put on a show.”

Gavrilova made waves last year with three top-10 victories – over Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic and Lucie Safarova – and she kicked off 2016 by winning the Hopman Cup alongside Nick Kyrgios and now making the fourth round in Melbourne, toppling the sixth-seeded Petra Kvitova en route.

She may not have received the kind of attention someone like Kyrgios has been getting in Melbourne, but former player and current tennis pundit, Rennae Stubbs believes all eyes will be on Gavrilova moving forward.

“She’ll get attention,” Stubbs told Sport360. “She said it the other day when she said she can beat anyone, she’s definitely a player that believes in herself, that’s the bottom line.

“How far can she go? Top-10 for sure. Because I think she has the guts of a top-10 player and that’s key. She’s a great kid, she works hard, she’s had her ups and downs, she had knee surgery early in her career and she’s come back from that, so she’s resilient that’s for sure.

“She’s just gutsy, she doesn’t pull off a shot, she keeps going. Her serve is quite good for someone who is small. She’s willing to move forward. Everything she does is really tough and solid. She doesn’t do anything big, she doesn’t have a big weapon but her weapon is her legs and her heart and she runs a million balls down. She’s kind of like a (Caroline) Wozniacki type of a player with that real big energy and fire.

“She already knows that what she suffered with last year was just getting too excited in the grand slams. She’s already in the fourth round here, she’s learned her lessons and hopefully she’ll just keep getting better.”

Gavrilova, who is bidding to become the first Australian woman to make the Melbourne quarter-finals since Jelena Dokic in 2009, says she is not worried about recovering from her tough third round.

She knows she’s in for some long rallies with Suarez Navarro and believes “whoever is more aggressive is going to win.”

Suarez Navarro, who is back in the fourth round of a slam for the first time since Roland Garros 2014, feels she’s getting back on track after a sub-par second half of 2015.

She beat Gavrilova in their only previous meeting in Tokyo 2014 but is wary of the constantly-improving Aussie.

“It will be tough. I know her really well, she fights a lot. She’s really happy on court, she plays with the crowd really well,” said Suarez Navarro. “But I think I’m ready for that match, I want to enjoy it. I want to play on Rod Laver Arena.”

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Federer and Dimitrov revel in Davis taking Sharapova to the wire

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Somewhere in a small warm-up room in the winding corridors of Melbourne Park, Roger Federer and Grigor Dimitrov sat side by side watching Lauren Davis force a deciding third set against Maria Sharapova.

Federer gave out a loud ‘woah, are you kidding me?’ reacting to a point and jumped out of his seat when a long rally was over. “That would’ve been the shot of the tournament,” the Swiss legend told Dimitrov and the rest of the group who were sat with them.

The pair continued to watch, having a laugh, kicking about a tennis ball, knowing that a short while later, they would step on Rod Laver Arena and become adversaries. Not a scene you’d typically expect from fierce competitors at the top level of the game.

Soon after, Federer walked off the court a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 third round winner over Dimitrov to improve his record against the Bulgarian to a clean 5-0, and become the first man in history to win 300 grand slam matches in the process.




“Because we know each other quite well, yeah, we were pretty chilled going into the match,” the third-seeded Federer said of the amusing scene ahead of their match.

“We've both been well-prepared. Sometimes you don't look much at the other guy. But with Grigor it's different, like with other guys on tour. There's many guys I would speak to before a match. That was the situation today.

“But I'm happy it still exists. We're not that far down the road where it's so professional where you can't even look at the guy before you walk on court. We're not there yet and I hope we'll never get there.”


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Aus Open diary: Hewitt tributes, Novak snub, Davis goes nuts

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It's been another eventful couple of days in Melbourne.

Lleyton Hewitt’s farewell has been a long time coming and the Aussie finally played his last ever singles match on Thursday – a second round loss to David Ferrer.

It felt like every single tennis player was watching that match as tweets and tributes were pouring in from the second it was over.

I was watching the final moments of the match alongside ex-world No1 Jelena Jankovic at the transport desk, as we waited for our rides, and when the Serb’s car arrived she just wouldn’t leave the TV screen as she eagerly anticipated Hewitt’s farewell speech.

Ferrer, who is usually quite shy speaking English and doesn’t say much in the language, gave a touching tribute to Hewitt on court, telling him he had a museum of sports jerseys at home and the only tennis one he had was a signed one of the Aussie’s.

A Rusty throwback

Serena Williams played mixed doubles with Hewitt here in Melbourne back in 1998 and has fond memories of that experience.

“I remember it was fun. I asked him if he wanted to play. We were both 16. It would be really fun to kind of play together. We didn’t win. I expected to win the tournament, I dont know why,” said the world No1.

“But we did have a great time. We both have been incredible fighters. Lleyton, his whole career has been based on fighting. It’s definitely sad when you kind of started with someone to see them advance on, but I’m really happy for him.”

Asked about how it felt being one of the few left from her generation in the game, Serena joked: “There’s a few of us. I’m waiting on Roger (Federer), waiting on his next move.”

Djokovic doesn’t win them all

Novak Djokovic’s testimonial was mistakenly cut from the Hewitt tribute video played on court after his final match, which included messages from Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios.

Asked about it in press, the five-time Australian Open champion said: “I have no comment. I don’t know. I’ve done it, but it wasn’t there. I guess we have to ask them.”

Tennis Australia apologised for the unintentional snub.

“Due to a production error unfortunately the wrong video was shown on the night. Novak’s message was recorded on a different day to the other players so there were a couple of versions made. The full version, which included Novak, went up online last night and we’ve apologised to Novak’s team,” a representative from Tennis Australia told news.com.au.

Going nuts on court

After bravely taking the second set tiebreak from Maria Sharapova to force a third, American Lauren Davis had an unusual snack for a mid-match pick-me-up.

Davis, 22, took out a jar of what looked like peanut butter from her bag and ate straight out of it with a spoon.

She later explained it was Trader Joe’s almond butter. “It’s my favourite. I just had one spoonful,” she said, according to my colleague Nick McCarvel.

Interesting choice, Lauren.

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