Australian Open 2021: Gavrilova headlines first wildcards revealed ahead of Feb. 8 start

Petra Kvitova knocked out of Australian Open by local Daria Gavrilova - Eurosport

Tennis Australia have announced the first wildcards for next year’s first Grand Slam, with former world no. 20 Daria Gavrilova headlining the notable selections – six Australian players across the men and women’s draw – granted an opportunity to shine in their home tournament.

It was described as an early Christmas gift and in fairness, there isn’t a much better feeling than being able to feature at your home Grand Slam during these unprecedented times.

Christopher O’Connell (New South Wales) and Marc Polmans (Victoria) have been granted wildcards into the men’s draw, while Astra Sharma, Maddison Inglis (Western Australia), Lizette Cabrera (Queensland) and the aforementioned Gavrilova (Vic) will feature in the women’s side.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley was full of praise and quoted as saying:

“While 2020 has been an incredibly challenging year, we’re proud of the strength and resilience this group of players has shown during this difficult time.

Chris, Marc, Dasha, Astra, Maddy and Lizette have all inspired us with their efforts both on and off the court, here at home and in unprecedented conditions overseas. We are excited to give them the opportunity to compete.

The Grand Slams are the pinnacle of our sport and the chance to play at home is an experience we know these deserving players will cherish.”

injury-stricken Gavrilova hoping to make up for lost time

Australian tennis pro Daria Gavrilova admits she needs to play US Open 'to make a living' - ABC News

It hasn’t always been plain sailing for Gavrilova in her nine-year pro career to date

Gavrilova, who missed out this past year with a foot injury, is understandably excited.

“I’m really excited to play in the AO next year.

I’ve trained really hard to prepare, I’m super excited to get the opportunity to compete, especially in-front of a crowd, we haven’t had that for a while. I’m going to make sure I bring double the energy, so I hope the crowd will too.”

The 26-year-old, who represented Russia until emigrating to Australia in 2015, has reached the fourth round at this upcoming competition twice (2016, 2017).

2016: Beat Lucie Hradecka, Petra Kvitova and Kristina Mladenovic before losing in a three-set battle against Carla Suarez Navarro
2017: Three-set victories over Naomi Broady, Ana Konjuh and Timea Bacsinszky before losing to Karolina Pliskova in straight sets

Also read – Thiem’s coach Nicolas Massu: I see a bright future, he can win more Slams

Picture source: Eurosport, ABC

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