Newcombe Medal: Gavrilova consolidates gains
In an impressive 2016 season, Daria Gavrilova achieved her goal of a top-30 ranking, and now finds herself as a Newcombe Medal finalist.
Daria Gavrilova’s 2016 season closely resembled an inverted bell curve.
There was a stunning start during which she won the Hopman Cup with Nick Kyrgios and stormed to the fourth round of the Australian Open.
There was a dip in the middle, where from May to August she failed to advance beyond the second round of six consecutive events.
And there was a brilliant recovery to end it; she improved with each match and closed out the year by reaching her first WTA final at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow.
Following a breakthrough 2015 season during which she cracked the top 40 after beginning that year outside the top 200, Gavrilova improved on that in 2016, reaching world No.25 and coming within striking distance of the No.1 Aussie ranking.
As a result of another successful WTA season, Daria Gavrilova finds herself among the six finalists for the 2016 Newcombe Medal, honouring Australia’s most outstanding elite tennis player and ambassador for the sport.
“I’m pretty proud of it … it’s pretty exciting,” Gavrilova said of her nomination.
“At the beginning of the year I had a lot of fun playing at my home events. The Australian Open was just something really special. And the end of the year was pretty good too. I reached my goal of finishing inside the top 30 so I’m pretty proud of my year.”
The nature of Gavrilova’s run to the fourth round at Melbourne Park was particularly impressive. She beat world No.7 Petra Kvitova in the second round and then overcame 28th seed Kristina Mladenovic in a third-round thriller at Hisense Arena, which ended at 11-9 in the third set.
The win over Kvitova was one of four wins over top 10 opponents in 2016. She repeated the feat against the Czech en route to the quarters in Madrid, upset No.6 Simona Halep in the second round in Rome and late in the season stunned new world No.1 Angelique Kerber in Hong Kong.
Her 6-3 6-1 thrashing of Kerber came in the midst of a purple patch of form after the US Open.
Gavrilova advanced to the quarterfinals at the prestigious China Open, the last four in Hong Kong, and then went all the way to the final in Moscow, a stretch during which she went 10-3 and halved her ranking.
“I knew that a lot of girls would have been pretty tired (at that stage of the season) and I knew that if I just did a little bit more every time and worked a bit harder than what they did, I would probably have a pretty good result,” she explained.
“I was just positive and wasn’t thinking about the US series, where I didn’t do so well there. So I was just hungry to win some matches.”
Gavrilova, who won 31 matches during the season, now sits just four places below long-time Australian No.1 Sam Stosur.
The prospect of surpassing her frequent practice partner and Fed Cup teammate will add to the already-high motivation she has as she prepares for a new season, which will begin with the excitement of playing again in front of her home fans in January.