Enjoying the adulation: Daria Gavrilova edged out Kristina Mladenovich in a tense third-round battle. Photo: Eddie Jim High-energy: Gavrilova unrelenting in quest for success. Photo: Eddie Jim
Gavrilova sees funny side of gaffeWhy Daria Gavrilova now flies the Aussie flag
The raucous Australian crowd made all the difference in Daria Gavrilova’s hard-fought win, her opponent said.
The tenacious Gavrilova beat Kristina Mladenovic in a white-knuckle thriller in which the third set went to 11-9 on Friday night.
Gavrilova shed tears when she finally clinched victory 6-4, 4-6, 11-9 on Hisense Arena. “I’ve got nothing in my head and I’m just really excited,” she said. “I really want to hug the whole stadium.”
The crowd chanted for “Dasha”; they sang, they cheered. When she was losing and fell to her knees they roared, and she got up, with a smile.
Mladenovic said she had never before played in such a charged atmosphere.
While she enjoyed the Australian fans’ enthusiasm, it was also likely what gave Gavrilova the edge.
“I’m very honoured to be in such a situation, unfortunately the feeling was against me,” she said.
“I’m lucky to be French also, to have a grand slam at home, but to be honest in front of you I never experienced anything similar.”
Gavrilova called the victory the best win of her career and agreed the crowd support had been important.
“They pulled me through in the end, they were great, I can’t thank them enough,” she said.
Gavrilova, 21, recently celebrated becoming an Australian citizen and has accelerated through the rankings over the past year.
Moving from outside the top 100 to her current position at No.39, she has won fans with her unrelenting, high-energy brand of tennis. A year older and nearly 20 centimetres taller, Frenchwoman Mladenovic also broke through in 2015, moving from No.81 to finish the year at No.29.
Gavrilova’s first-set win always looked likely, although Mladenovic managed to take four games. Where Mladenovic appeared agitated, the Australian wore a slight smile as she bounced between points, clearly enjoying the cheers of the rowdy and patriotic fans.
Early in the second set, Mladenovic tried to pop the ball over the net for a sneaky winner, only to not quite make the height and have it bounce back at her feet.
She spent a moment head down, her frustration clear for all to see.
But when Mladenovic regained her composure and fought back, it was Gavrilova’s turn to be annoyed. She yelled and hit the ball high into the air.
When she found herself early in third set and out of challenges, she exchanged words and a furious look with the chair umpire.
The match then became an arm-wrestle – each time Mladenovic edged ahead, Gavrilova fought back.
The were times when the taller woman appeared too good at serving, too strong at the net, but Gavrilova played every shot, persistent and fiercely competitive until the end.
Gavrilova said she could not wait to play again, and wasn’t concerned over the recovery time she would need after the gruelling three-hour encounter.
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