Ash Barty may be the nicest superstar in sport – but her world No.1 status still left a fellow Aussie "scared".
Daria Gavrilova will play Barty in round two of the Australian Open after both Aussies powered through their opening matches.
'Dasha' recalled a recent exchange with Barty where she needed a lift back from training, yet was daunted by asking the top-ranked women's player – entirely needlessly, as it turned out.
"I have a lot of respect for Ash," Gavrilova said.
"You know, she was training at Xavier [College] while internationals were in quarantine, and me and [husband] Luke [Saville] just are sharing one car and he left, but he was going to drop me off.
"Anyway, long story. I was, like, scared to ask Ash for a lift.
"I was like, 'Ash, can you please give me a lift?' She's like, 'Oh, my God, you're an idiot. Like, let's go'."
Gavrilova said that she enjoyed Barty's company despite being a polar opposite personality. She said that he rise to the top of the sport had been great for Australian tennis.
"Yeah, she's incredible," Gavrilova said.
"You know, she's someone if we travel, she's the first one to find a good coffee shop and then we, yeah, she's a morning person, I think. She loves her coffee.
"But we are probably, like definitely, completely different personalities. Like complete opposite. But we get along on tour and yeah, she's someone I definitely look up to.
"I'm pretty proud that we've got someone like Ash and, you know, playing Fed Cup with her – Billie Jean King Cup now – is always fun and she just represents us, meaning like, Billie Jean King Cup and Australia, so well.
"She's an incredible player but her tennis smarts are incredible. Before a tie, we always play team analysis, like the opposition analysis, and she's always spot on. She's just spot on every time."
The Aussie vs Aussie clash on Thursday at Melbourne Park will be a headline match and Gavrilova, currently ranked No.387 thanks to injuries and granted a wildcard for the Open, is excited for the encounter.
"Yeah, I'm pretty excited. I mean, I haven't played Ash in ages," Gavrilova said, with Barty leading 3-1 head to head and the winner when they last met in Madrid during 2019.
"Yeah, it's gonna be really fun. You know, I don't know what court we are going to be on, but I love the big show and I'm sure a lot of people are going to come out and watch. So I'm pretty excited."
While Gavrilova beat Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-1 7-5, Barty inflicted a double bagel 6-0 6-0 defeat on Danka Kovinic. The Aussie world No.1 said that she'd missed playing on the big stage, having been inactive on the tour since last February.
"Every single day," Barty said, when asked if she'd missed playing.
"The competitor in me missed what this is all about. That's what I missed the most – coming out here and really enjoying the thrill of the fight."
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