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Womens Singles, 1st Round
Daria Gavrilova won in 2 sets
She’s been the last Aussie standing at the last two Australian Opens, and Daria Gavrilova will be looking to kickstart a third successful tournament in a row when she takes on American qualifier Irina Falconi in the first round. Join The Roar for live scores, updates and analysis from approximately 9pm AEDT.
Rising star Ashleigh Barty may have overtaken her as the top-ranked Australian female, but as the 23rd seed, and with an excellent record at her adopted home Slam, the diminutive one-time Russian is arguably still Australia’s best hope of going deep into the tournament.
A pair of fourth-round finishes in 2016 and 2017 at Melbourne Park entrenched her as a fan favourite, but they’re still the only times she’s made it past the second round at any of the majors, indicating she’s still a way off mixing it with the very best in the business.
Still, her form leading up to the tournament has been impressive, reaching the semi-final of the Sydney International before losing to countrywoman Barty, and in front of a normally vocal crowd at Rod Laver Arena, she can expect the lion’s share of the support from the stands.
Her opponent, little-known American Irina Falconi, is somehow even shorter than Gavrilova, and at just 163 centimetres (5 feet 4 inches), fans sitting near the back of the arena may struggle to even see her during the match.
What they can’t fail to observe, however, is a splendid run of wins leading into the biggest tournament of her career, the 27-year old cantering through three straight-sets qualifying matches, dropping just 12 games in total – and six of those were in one tie-break set in Game 2.
She’s tasted victory at the last four Australian Opens, but in all of them has bowed out in the second round, and with the clock ticking on her tennis prime, the American would dearly love a rare deep entry into a major tournament.
With good form, support from the crowd and a history of performing well at Melbourne Park, it’s hard to go past Gavrilova in this one. It would be a career victory for Falconi, but she’d have to play out of her skin to pull it off.
Gavrilova in straight sets
The tournament only gets tougher for Gavrilova from here on in, with 12th-seeded German Julia Goerges a potential third-round match-up, and with the still-mighty Venus Williams in her part of the draw, “Dasha” can ill afford any slip-ups costing her precious momentum in the early rounds.
Can the adopted Aussie give the crowd something to cheer and make her way into the second round? Or will the unknown American spoil the party?
Tune into The Roar’s live coverage from approximately 9pm (AEDT) and be sure to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section below.