Tennis

Gavrilova adds a dash of danger to top seeds

AUSSIE fan favourite Daria Gavrilova looms as a major threat to the marquee names in the women’s draw at next year’s Brisbane International.

As The Courier-Mail reported yesterday, seven top-10 women, headed by fourth-ranked Elina Svitolina, have entered the event in one of its deepest female fields.

Following Svitolina in the seedlings will be US Open champion Naomi Osaka, ranked fifth, 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens (6) and Petra Kvitova (7).

Gavrilova, ranked No. 36, enjoyed a win over Kvitova’s in Beijing in September, one of three wins the second-ranked Australian woman achieved over former Grand Slam champions in 2018.

“I started playing well at the end of the season and it’s a confidence booster to get wins over Grand Slam champions,” Gavrilova said.

“I just felt like I handled myself well against Kvitova because she is such a powerful player. I lost to her a few months before but I stood up to her and was aggressive.

“I’ve had some ups and downs this year and some changes in my team and feel like I’m on the right track to have a good Australian circuit.’’

Gavrilona was ranked as high as No. 23 during the year, but did not make a WTA tournament semi-final after February despite the immense one-day highs of wins over Garbine Muguruza, Kvitova and Jelena Ostapenko.

Opportunities at Perth’s Hopman Cup to start her year means Gavrilova has not played the Brisbane International since 2015, when she was a 20-year-old qualifier who won a round and then lost to the future world No. 1 Angelique Kerber.

“It was 2015 and I had just moved to Australia and was still waiting for my passport,’’ she said.

“I played my first Fed Cup tie here against the United States. I haven’t had wins in Brisbane so much but I have good memories because the crowd have been pretty amazing.

“Last summer I was watching on television how much everyone was supporting (Alex) de Minaur.’’

Svitolina’s 2018 campaign netted her four titles, bettered only by Kvitova (five), and it started with her Brisbane final win in the opening week.

Svitolina’s talent and WTA Tour consistency makes it hard to comprehend why she has made it no further than the quarter-finals in the 12 Grand Slam events she has played since breaking into the top 20 in 2015.

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