This time three years ago, neither Daria Gavrilova nor Ashleigh Barty looked like they would become the #1 and #2 respectively for Australia. Indeed, in October 2014, the 18-year-old Barty committed herself to a break from tennis, deciding to take up an offer with the Brisbane Heat in the inaugural year of Australian women’s twenty20 cricket. The 20-year-old Gavrilova was not even Australian. She was still representing her native Russia in the year leading up to her emigration down under. Three years later, and the two former superstar juniors are finally fulfilling their potential. Heading into this week, Barty, at 23, is sitting on a career-high ranking, while Gavrilova, at 22, is two spots off hers, achieved in late August.
A successful 2017?
2017 saw Gavrilova pick up first career title on Tour at the Connecticut Open in August. She defeated Dominika Cibulkova in the final and notched a Top 10 win against Agnieszka Radwanska in the round before. Gavrilova also showed her versatility, her three finals on the year coming on hard courts in Connecticut and Hong Kong, and clay in Strasbourg.
Barty has also enjoyed the best year of her career, scoring her first title at the Malaysian Open, and making the final at the Birmingham Classic and the Wuhan Open. Dispatched on her way to the latter final were seeds Radwanska, Konta, Pliskova and Ostapenko. Along with her victory over Garbine Muguruza in Birmingham, Barty took down two 2017 #1’s and two of the year’s Grand Slam champions. Not bad for a player who was swinging a different piece of sporting equipment just two years ago.
Success at a Slam remained elusive this year, with a fourth round showing at the Australian Open from Gavrilova their best result this year. But both women will have a chance to enter all four Majoris next year seeded, aiding their cause immeasurably. The pint-sized jack-in-the-boxes have already achieved cult status within Australia’s revered tennis community, for their down-to-Earth enthusiasm and desire for the sport.
Neither match up physically with many of the younger women making their mark on the WTA. But both possess strong groundstrokes and crucially are as comfortable in the forecourt as they are at the baseline. Both infinitely valuable on Tour today. Despite being criticised for a “distinctly British” import culture, in which their women’s tennis received an influx of talent from other countries, the Aussies are rebuilding their program in impressive fashion. Though Samantha Stosur is entering the twilight of her career the future is bright for Australian women’s tennis. Arina Rodionova, Lizette Cabrera, Destanee Aiava and Priscilla Hon all hit career highs this year and look close to breakthroughs of their own. And by that time, their compatriots Gavrilova and Barty may be contending for Grand Slam titles.
Do you think Gavrilova and Barty could contend for Majors in the future? Let us know in the comments below!
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