Daria Saville: “It’s pretty special to get selected”
After a stunning return to form in her long-awaited comeback from injury, a grateful Daria Saville is embracing a big opportunity at Wimbledon this week.
When Daria Saville played her first individual tournaments on overseas soil in almost 18 months in March, she didn’t dare dream that she would soon be contesting both Roland Garros and Wimbledon main draws.
Having dropped outside the world’s top 600 after her long battle with foot and Achilles injuries, the Melburnian was in many ways simply happy to set out on tour again.
Fast forward five months and the 28-year-old Saville has not only returned to the world’s top 100, but also earned wildcards into both the clay and grass-court Grand Slams.
“It is not like I had expectations. My goals were a lot lower,” said the Australian ahead of a fourth main draw campaign at Wimbledon.
“I didn’t think I would be playing main draw French Open or I would get the wildcard here. I thought, ‘OK. Hopefully I will be main draw of Australian Open next year,’. That’s what my goal was.”
Still the tenacity that superbly complements Saville’s on-court athleticism was clearly a factor as she embraced her tour return.
After qualifying for Indian Wells, Saville was a quarterfinalist in Miami, with wins over Ons Jabeur and Elise Mertens at the former event among six top-50 opponents she’s defeated this year.
Another was at Roland Garros, where the Victorian stunned two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the second round.
While the Australian had earned a wildcard into the Parisian major through Australia’s reciprocal arrangement with the French Tennis Federation, a determined Saville made a direct approach to the All England Club.
“I had zero expectations. In fact, I was on my way to Roehampton to play qualifying,” Saville admitted of her emailed request.
“I didn’t want to brag about my results, but I pretty much said that I missed out by only a little bit and would now be inside the cut. I then sent another email saying, ‘I had a good run in Berlin and now I am inside the top 100. Hello? Please?’.
“I saw that they had not announced the last two, so I was like, ‘Let me just send another email’.”
Saville was still in Berlin, where she qualified and reached the second round, when her wildcard entry was confirmed. “I was like over the moon. It’s pretty special to get selected,” she smiled.
It’s especially special given the efforts required for Saville to overcome her many injury challenges, with the Australian at times questioning whether she would even return to the tour.
“I had thoughts where, ‘OK. What if the surgery is not going to be successful?’,” Saville admitted. “I had some tough few months while I was recovering where it was not tracking in the right direction. I stalled. I was like, ‘What is happening? Why? Why is it not improving?’ That was a bit hard. I was like, ‘Oh my God. What if I can’t get back?’.”
Those difficult times are now firmly in the past as Saville prepares to meet Viktoriya Tomova in the first round.
“We have known each other since we were little kids,” said Saville, who lost to the world No.112 from Bulgaria in the only WTA match they contested in 2020. The Australian was returning from her first Achilles injury then but is feeling both physically and mentally prepared this time around.
“I think it’s a good challenge and I’m up for it,” she said.
While hinting at a goal of reclaiming a top-30 ranking, Saville will compete with an absence of pressure at a favourite event.
“I just take on match at a time, one practice at a time and just try and get better every day,” she smiled.
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