Down and out: Daria Gavrilova during her fourth round match against Carla Suarez Navarro. Photo: Darrian Traynor Winning way: Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain celebrates after beating Australia’s Daria Gavrilova. Photo: Aaron Favila
Time out: Suarez Navarro receives medical treatment during her fourth round match. Photo: Darrian Traynor
Ended in tears: Daria Gavrilova after losing to Carla Suarez Navarro. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Sad end: Daria Gavrilova was visibly upset after losing to Carla Suarez Navarro. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Feelgood stories can run out of steam, and just as the Australian Open had looked on course to have its dream Australia Day script the Daria Gavrilova bubble burst spectacularly on Sunday night.
Having shocked 10th seed Carla Suarez Navarro by taking the opening set to love, Gavrilova was broken down – in spirit and game – by a no-fuss veteran with a fluid, measured approach. She departed a 0-6, 6-3, 6-2 loser, tearful, glum and demonstrative in stark contrast to the sunny newcomer who’d won hearts aplenty in recent weeks.
For all the ground made in just her sixth grand slam tournament, her defeat was instructional of the progress and maturity still to come. The 21-year-old won the first seven games of the match but lost the last six, a bald pointer to an emotional unravelling against an opponent who battled a knee complaint but remained composed throughout.
“It wasn’t great, and I’m very disappointed with myself,” Gavrilova said of her meltdown. “I was being a little girl. I got emotionally fried in the second set, was getting angry with myself and just showing way too much emotion.
“It’s not acceptable, I don’t know why I did that. It was terrible. The behaviour, I’ve just gotta learn from it.”
Where Suarez Navarro wondered if she’d been too relaxed at the start of the match, Gavrilova was patently wound up to the point of exasperation by its end. Handwritten notes that were consulted at a set apiece, reminding her “this is exactly where you should be” and “you can and will outwork her”, were torn to shreds as she left Rod Laver Arena devastated.
“At the end of the match I think I was more focused than her,” Suarez Navarro observed. Gavrilova couldn’t argue.
Gavrilova entered the fourth round having been variously hailed as “the new Aussie queen of centre court”, our “new Aussie hero”, and a “Melbourne girl” blasting her way through the women’s draw. After sweeping through the opening set to love in 25 minutes, it seemed safe to assume the hyperbole meter’s biggest test was yet to come.
She admitted to being “emotionally fried” not just from venturing deeper into a grand slam than at her previous five attempts, but also the attention her run brought. “Right now I don’t mind it, I don’t know what to do,” she said of the focus. “It’s all happening for the first time in my life so I just go with it.”
The Muscovite who followed boyfriend Luke Saville to Middle Park has won over her adopted country in a matter of weeks, but Suarez Navarro presented a challenge befitting the territory – a top-20 player of the past three years who peaked at eight in the world last June. Her 29th grand slam appearance dwarfed for big-time experience an opponent in just her sixth.
Gavrilova’s size has been part of her appeal – the tiny tot taking it up to the big hitters – but in Suarez Navarro she encountered a grinder prepared to bide her time and draw out mistakes. The opening rally lasted 14 shots, setting a taxing scene.
Gavrilova held serve then broke the Spaniard immediately, pressuring Suarez Navarro’s second serve, rushing forward and putting away confidence-building volleys and overheads. A drop shot-topspin lob combination sent her bouncing to the chair at three-nil.
When she broke to love for 4-0 the first set seemed a formality, but Gavrilova fell 0-40 down in the fifth game. Rallying from there to win the next five points might have engendered belief that she could reel in the Spaniard if required, but her emotions would turn against her.
The first set was hers to love in 25 minutes, she saved break points again at the start of the second and 40 minutes had passed before Suarez Navarro finally got on the scoreboard.
Gavrilova was broken at 2-2 in the second as her opponent finally found some rhythm in her groundstrokes and pushed her around the court. At 4-3 the Spaniard called an injury time-out for a knee issue but showed no initial restriction in her movement and comfortably levelled the match.
Gavrilova broke immediately and saved break-back points to go 2-0 up in the third, eliciting an ominous limp from her opponent along the way as she rushed the net in vain pursuit of a teasing drop shot.
But in the next game the sunny disposition cracked amid a hail of errant ball tosses, a simple missed overhead, a foot fault and a double fault. It precipitated a ragged end to a groundbreaking campaign.
Agnieszka Radwanska presents as the Australia Day date Gavrilova might have had, and one who would feel relieved and a little fortunate to reach the last eight of a major for the 12th time.
Anna-Lena Friedsam, a 21-year-old German ranked 82 who had never previously been beyond the second round of a grand slam, led Radwanska 5-2 in the deciding set on Hisense Arena before straining a thigh muscle. She hobbled through another five unsuccessful games and was a devastated, sobbing mess as Radwanska closed out the match.
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