Melbourne, Australia, 9 February 2021 | Leigh Rogers

Daria Gavrilova has experienced many special moments at Melbourne Park.

It is the 26-year-old’s regular training base and where she has twice made sensational runs to the Australian Open fourth round.

The Melburnian captured Australian hearts with her fierce determination at Australian Open 2016, defeating sixth seed Petra Kvitova in the second round before posting a memorable hard-fought victory against 28th seed Kristina Mladenovic in the third round.

The following year, Gavrilova showed her fighting spirit again to win three rounds at the Australian Open – all in three-set battles. This included another top-20 scalp, with a third-round victory against No.12 seed Timea Bacsinszky.

However, Gavrilova’s Australian Open 2020 experience proved very different. Sidelined with foot and Achilles injuries, she instead played a supporting role as fiancé Luke Saville progressed to the men’s doubles final.

“I was watching all of his matches,” Gavrilova told

“I still enjoyed being on site and catching up with my friends. Not worrying about getting ready for matches was different. It kind of felt like I’d lost in the first round and then just kept hanging around.”

Gavrilova, who is currently ranked No.387, is back on court at Australian Open 2021 as a main draw singles wildcard recipient.

“It’s always exciting to play at home,” she said. “There’s obviously going to be a bit different feel this year, but I’m really excited. Hopefully we’ll have nice crowds and people come out and support.”

Gavrilova competed again at Melbourne Park late in the 2020, winning two UTR Pro Tennis Series titles. But playing in front of no fans, it was a very different experience to her favourite Grand Slam.

> READ: Gavrilova always up for a challenge

Following her UTR performances and a solid pre-season training block, Gavrilova begins the 2021 season with quiet confidence.

“I’m just really enjoying tennis,” she said.

The former world No.20 proved she is still a major contender, defeating No.24 seed Dayana Yastremska in the first round at last year’s Roland Garros.

It was only Gavrilova’s second professional tournament in her return from a 12-month injury lay-off and her biggest Grand Slam win in three years.

The former world No.1 junior is determined to build on that promising result in the new season.

At the Melbourne Summer Series, Gavrilova scored an opening round win against world No.98 Viktoria Kuzmova before pushing childhood idol Serena Williams in her next match.

“In 2021, hopefully I’m going to have a reputation as a really tough player,” Gavrilova said.

“If anyone gets me in the draw, hopefully they’ll be like ‘ugh, I don’t want to play Dasha’.”

Gavrilova begins her Australian Open 2021 campaign against  Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo this evening at Margaret Court Arena.

> PREVIEW: 14 Aussies in action on day two

Tickets for Australian Open 2021 are available through Ticketmaster.