Aussie underdog tennis darling Daria Gavrilova – who is ranked 451st in the world – sets up clash with Serena Williams after overcoming foot injury that threatened to ruin her career
- World no. 451 Daria Gavrilova is set to verse world no.11 Serena Williams
- Ms Gavrilova had suffered an Achilles and plantar fasciitis, missing last year
- The Aussie has made the fourth round at the Australian Open twice before
Daria Gavrilova is banking on her quick feet to keep her in the contest against superstar Serena Williams after finally overcoming the foot issues which threatened her career.
Hobbled by toe, Achilles and plantar fasciitis which caused her to miss last year’s Australian Open, Gavrilova looked at peak fitness as she thrashed Slovakian Viktoria Kuzmova 6-2 6-0 in just 65 minutes in her Yarra Valley Classic opener on Sunday.
Veteran Samantha Stosur fell 6-2 6-0 to Czech 16th seed Marie Bouzkova, with all Australian women but Gavrilova exiting on day one.
Aussie tennis player, Daria Gavrilova (pictured) is ready and counting on her quick feet to help in this year’s Australia open against Serena Williams
Ms Gavrilova (pictured centre) suffered plantar fasciitis, causing her to miss last year’s Australia Open
Gavrilova was excited by her performance against the world No.98, and was particularly pleased with her serve, which she said had improved in the past year.
But she felt regaining her speed was the key to taking down 23-time champion Williams on Monday.
‘I know that I have my speed out there and knowing that gives me confidence, no matter who I play,’ said Gavrilova, a former world No.20.
‘I’m going to say I’m probably top five in the fastest players right now, and I’m pretty happy with that.
Gavrilova says she needs her speed to help her beat 23-time champion Serena Williams (pictured)
‘I feel like I can sprint to any ball and not being scared gives me that confidence.’
Gavrilova has made the fourth round at the Open twice and said while she was happy with her form, she had no expectations.
‘I know I’m not going to blow anyone off the court so I’m just going to play tough points,’ she said.
While Stosur quickly bowed out fellow Australian Astra Sharma blew a golden chance to advance against Estonian veteran Kaia Kanepi.
Sharma, who made the Australian Open mixed doubles final in 2019, was two points from a straight-sets victory but stumbled to go down 1-6 7-5 6-2.
Venus Williams belied her 40 years to trounce Dutch world No.74 Arantxa Rus 6-1 6-3.
Fellow Australians Arina Rodionova, Maddison Inglis, Lizette Cabrera, Kim Birrell and Olivia Gadecki were also first-round casualties.
‘I feel like I can sprint to any ball and not being scared gives me that confidence,’ said Ms Gavrilova, a former world No.20
The women are playing in two WTA events, running concurrently, while a third starts Wednesday ahead of the February 8 Open start date.
Australia’s world No.1 Ash Barty had a first-round bye and faces Romanian Anna Bogdan on Tuesday in the Yarra Valley Classic.
World No.2 Simona Halep, top seed in the Gippsland Trophy, will play Anastasia Potopova on Monday.
Australian Alja Tomljanovic opens proceedings on Margeret Court Arena against Alize Cornet while 16-year-old American talent Coco Gauff plays Jill Teichmann.
The Aussie has made the fourth round at the Open twice and said while she was happy with her form, she had no expectations