Fist-pumping fan-favourite Daria Gavrilova has continued her dream summer to bound into the Australian Open fourth round at Melbourne Park.
The 21-year-old ball of energy upended seeded Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic 6-4 4-6 11-9 in a Friday night thriller to reach the second week of a grand slam for the first time.
Granted citizenship in November, Gavrilova will next face Spanish 10th seed Carla Suarez Navarro or former Russian compatriot Elizaveta Kulichkova on Sunday in her audacious quest to end Australia’s 38-year women’s title drought.
Gavrilova backed up her stunning second-round win over dual Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova to take out Mladenovic, the 28th seed, in a rollercoaster encounter at Hisense Arena that featured no less than 13 service breaks.
Australia’s Hopman Cup winner led by a set and a break before rebounding from a mid-match meltdown to advance to the last 16 in two hours and 51 tense minutes.
The watershed win not only guaranteed Gavrilova a $200,000 pay day – the biggest cheque of her fledging career – and the possibility of more, but also a fresh career-high ranking inside the world’s top 30.
Such lofty status would give the Melbourne-based former US Open junior champion a grand slam seeding for the first time come the French Open in May.
But first things first – and that’s a crack at Suarez Navarro or Kulichkova for a coveted quarter-final spot in front of her adoring home fans.