Five-time slam winner Martina Hingis has backed “energiser bunny” Daria Gavrilova for Open success, as the Australian ace prepares for her first major as a seeded player.
Gavrilova’s run to the fourth round last year was one of the stories of the Australian Open with wins over world No.1 Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova.
The 22-year-old backed up her efforts with a solid year on tour, pushing her into the world’s top 25 players and at Melbourne Park she’ll play as the 22nd seed.
And like much of Australia, Hingis was entranced by Gavrilova’s 2016 run – but she wasn’t surprised.
Hingis worked with and mentored Gavrilova as a teenager at the academy of Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou in France.
The pair have stayed in touch and the ‘Swiss Miss’ remains in her corner.
“People really got behind her last year and it was cool to see her grow,” Hingis told AAP.
“I love her. She’s such an energiser bunny.
“This is what the game needs. You also have Nick Kyrgios, there’s something about Australia that brings out the emotions in people.
“This is a good thing because we are not robots. We’re entertainers as well and people come here to see a bit of a show. Nick is a great master at that and Daria does also.”
While praising Gavrilova for her crowd-pleasing fortitude, Hingis, 36, said controlling her emotions will be key if she is to reach the top level.
“She gets very emotional and she sometimes tends to lose herself for games in a row. You can’t do that at the top level.”
“She bounces back much better than she did in the junior times.
“If she can master that it will be a great step forward but you also don’t want to take away those emotions.
“That’s who she is and that’s what makes her a great player too.”
That criticism is nothing new for the Moscow-born Melburnian, who says she’s focusing on being angry rather than downbeat in her lower moments.
“That’s what I am. I’m pretty emotional and I’m never going to be a good poker player,” she told AAP.
“I can be too negative. And when I cross the line it’s not ideal.
“There’s a difference. When I’m whingeing and being negative, that’s bad. But when I’m angry and fired up for the next point, I’m playing well.”
Gavrilova, who plays Brit Naomi Broady in the first round, said she was proud to be seeded but it wouldn’t help her progress further than last year.
“It’s a great accomplishment but I don’t think it makes a big difference. There are so many unseeded players that are good.”
Hingis is combining her doubles campaign with an ambassadorial role with MasterCard, promoting the Open as the “happy slam”.
“For me it’s the happiest slam because it’s where I had so much success,” she said.
“This year is the 20th anniversary of my first win so it is extra special.”