26 year old Australian Daria Gavrilova is the latest player to be featured on Noah Rubin's Behind the Racquet series. The Australian, a former World No. 20, has not played since the US Open last year due to injuries and recalls her tennis journey in the series.
“I still remember my first ever lesson, I was wearing a boy’s outfit because we couldn’t find anything else that looked like a tennis outfit. I went into my first lesson the coach told me to warm up by doing laps around the court.
I refused to do it, “There’s no point because I’m not racing against anyone, I’m not just going to run for the sake of it”. I was about six and a half years old, useless unable to even catch a ball.
I was a good visual learner and I eventually picked it up quickly. I remember when I used to go back home to Russia when I was younger and I’d always hit balls against the wall. The neighbors didn’t love it but they just had to deal with it.
I moved to Australia end of 2013, when I was 18. I got my residency soon after and my passport citizenship after that. I started to officially begin playing for Australia in 2016. When I first moved to Australia, I had a busted knee, just after having torn my ACL.
The first thing I did when I got to Australia was to have the surgery. My parents were very worried for about me being on my own, in a new place and for the surgery. I found a second family here with my best friends and my fiancé.
Last year I was struggling with achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis. My strength is my movement and all I had was pain. I remember Wimbledon last year, playing on court 17. I lost that match by basically convincing myself I didn’t deserve the win.
I then completely crumbled in the second. I was staying really close to the site and immediately stormed out. I started walking towards the house and then turned around knowing it wasn’t the right decision. My whole team was waiting for me.
I went back crying, not in a good place. I sat on the bench near the media center on level three. My coach came up to see me before I was supposed to do media and told me that no matter what they asked to not get overwhelmed with feelings.
I lost it a little and told them I needed time off. I had all these emotions but ignored them and decided to play the clay season, US Open and hopefully love tennis again. That love didn’t come back and my pain got worse.
After the US Open I sat down with my team and we decided that to actually take care of my health and have a procedure done to my achilles and for my plantar fasciitis. I had almost six months off, which was the first thing to truly help my motivation to step back on court.
I think everyone has off- court issues but we don’t talk about them, so not many people know. Sometimes we won’t even share our off-court problems with our closest friends on tour. I think as tennis players we’re so used to just protecting ourselves and not opening up but the little I started doing now has been helpful.
We are still very competitive but I think we’re shifting a little bit from this mentality. When I was a kid I was told that you can’t be friends with your rivals and to just keep to yourself but I was never this way.
I was always friendly and made many friends. I think you need that because it does get lonely and your team won’t always understand you. You don’t feel like they can relate to your feelings. This is where I think it’s important to have other players to talk to.
I have recently opened up to a few of them and it’s like, “Oh, my Gd, I get you”. There have been more interviews lately with people opening up and it seems like a cry for help. I see that players may find it easier to say it quickly in an interview rather than actually sitting down with someone and getting help.
I think we’re still extremely competitive but I’m hoping we can shift even more away from this mentality"