Daria Gavrilova opened up to Behind the Racquet, talking about her first tennis lessons, injury woes that have kept her off the court, and about the importance of friendship on the competitive WTA tour. The interview inspired me to share some childhood photos of the Russian-born Australian, along with excerpts from her story.
The 26-year-old Gavrilova was born in Moscow and introduced to tennis at the age of six by her parents Alexey and Natalia. In her most recent interview, the former Top 20 player, now ranked No.246 due to a long period of inactivity, described her first encounter with tennis:
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.
Gavrilova last played at the 2019 US Open, where she lost in the first round. Afterwards, she decided to take an extended period off in order to take care of her health and rekindle her motivation for tennis. Talking about her off-court struggles, Dasha touched on the importance of WTA friendships and how it can be helpful to open up to fellow players even though they are your rivals and the atmosphere is very competitive.
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 God, I get you.”
Dasha also noted that some players seem to be more comfortable sharing their emotions to the media than face-to-face:
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.
For more childhood photos of WTA players visit my Little Tennis Stars section, while you can read Daria’s full interview at Behind the Racquet, where you can learn more about the health procedures she has undertaken in recent months.