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Gallant Gavrilova's Open dream is over - and so are Australia's singles hopes

Tennis

Daria Gavrilova has declared Karolina Pliskova the player to beat for the Australian Open women’s title after being blown off the court by the fifth-seeded Czech.

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Her fairytale run ended in the fourth round – as did Australia’s representation in the singles’ draw – with the gallant Gavrilova unable to to handle the firepower of Pliskova in a 6-3 6-3 defeat on Rod Laver Arena last night.

Pliskova, the 2016 US Open finalist, next faces resurgent Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in a quarter-final match-up.

Gavrilova, the 22nd seed, said she couldn’t find her rhythm against Pliskova, who sent down 12 aces and backed it up with 27 winners compared to the Australian’s 14.

Gavrilova lamented the lack of penetration of her own first serve, which only found the mark 49 per cent of the time.

“I felt like I didn’t serve as good as I would have liked, it really let me down,” the 22-year-old Melburnian said.

“We didn’t have long rallies. I didn’t feel like I had the rhythm.”

The result means she will bank $220,000 in prizemoney.

While she didn’t improve on her best ever grand slam showing Gavrilova said she felt she was a better player 12 months on.

“I think I’m a better player overall,” she said having won through three tough three-set matches.

“I backed up my result last year and not many players can do that.”

Gavrilova said she felt Pliskova had the game to go all the way, with a possible semi-final match-up with Serena Williams, who she beat in the final four at the US Open.

“She’s been really consistent lately and I think she can definitely win it,” Gavrilova said.

“She struggled before at grand slams but I think she’s changed her mentality and she’s feeling confident.”

The previous best performance of Pliskova at Melbourne Park is last year’s third round but she now stands as one of the title favourites.

The 24-year-old started the year by winning the Brisbane International title under new coach David Kotyza, who previously coached Petra Kvitova.

Pliskova said she felt like more of a complete player than during her US Open run.

“I think I improved a little bit of everything since I made the final of the US Open,” Pliskova said.

“Everything is just going a little bit my way now. I’m very happy to be here in the next quarter-final.”

Spanish veteran Rafael Nadal yesterday overcame sixth-seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils in four sets to book an Australian Open quarter-final berth.

Nadal looked in full control, up two sets to love, before Monfils launched a comeback which fell short 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-4.

Seeded nine, Nadal next faces third seed Canadian Milos Raonic, the highest ranked player left in the men’s Australian Open field.

With the departure of defending champion Novak Djokovic and world No.1 Andy Murray, Canadian Raonic has a golden chance to crack his first crown.

He advanced to the quarter-finals with a rollercoaster win over Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (8-6) 3-6 6-4 6-1.

Raonis clawed his way back from 5-1 in the tie-breaker, and then saved three break-points at 4-4 in the third set which proved key.

“Most of the match, it was quite inconsistent I think from both of us,” Raonic said.

“After I held off those two break-points, I was able to reel off seven games or something along those lines.

“I was fortunate to get that point because it definitely could have been much longer.”

A semi-finalist at Melbourne Park this year, Raonic has been battling the flu over the past week and said while he had more energy, he still wasn’t at 100 per cent.

He said he wasn’t thinking too far ahead, with players like former champions Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka still lurking.

“I have some very difficult tasks ahead of me,” he said.

“I had today was a very difficult one.

“Next one, whoever it’s going to be, is going to be a very difficult one so I’m pretty intent on staying in that moment.”

-AAP

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