Australia lands a new tennis star

Daria Gavrilova may not be a household name in Australia just yet, but she likely will be soon.

Aussie enough to mix vegemite with avocado on toast, Gavrilova has arrived at the French Open as one of the hottest players on tour having taken down titleholder Maria Sharapova and former champion Ana Ivanovic in a head-turning past three weeks.

The Russian-born 21-year-old has also arrived proud to be wearing the green and gold.

Sceptics may view her as just another eastern European making her way in the so-called Lucky Country, but the long-time girlfriend of Australia’s two-time grand slam junior champion Luke Saville is anything but.

Her girlish giggle gives her away.

“Even if I was (a) Russian (representative), I’d still be be with Luke,” Gavrilova told AAP ahead of her first-round match against Monica Puig on Monday.

The pair have been dating for the past five years, since meeting in Mexico at Junior Fed Cup, and Gavrilova is hoping to receive Australian citizenship in November.

“I’ve always loved Melbourne and Australia,” she said.

“After each tournament I would still spend a few weeks there and train with Storm (Sanders) and other girls – and obviously dating Luke, I just love everything about it.”

Gavrilova’s coach Nicole Pratt said the former world junior champion initiated the immigration process herself back in January 2013.

It wasn’t until November of that year when Gavrilova received permanent residency that Tennis Australia began to provide financial and coaching assistance.

Now the investment is paying off.

Despite only returning to the court last July after a knee reconstruction, Gavrilova has shot to No.45 in the world.

With a couple of wins in Paris, she could conceivably end the tournament as Australia’s new No.1.

“Her biggest strength, I feel, is she’s got no weaknesses,” Pratt said.

“It’s very hard to find a hole on the court where people can expose her.”

But having not even seen her play on clay until last month, Gavrilova’s rapid progression has still caught Pratt by surprise.

“I certainly expected some of these results to come at some point. I didn’t expect them so soon, especially after coming back from injury,” Pratt said.

“With Dasha, I think she’s always had the belief but it hadn’t been realised and to be honest I don’t think she’d put in the work.

“Now she’s been really applying herself every day and the results are coming.

“Certainly now she’s someone that people are seeing in the draw and their eyes are wide open, knowing it’s going to be a tough match.

“I’m sure some of these top seeds, if they were to draw against her, they would be a little concerned.”

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