Watching Daria “Dasha” Gavrilova “imploding” at the Australian Open last night was hard.
After the game Gavrilova found it necessary to apologise for her on-court behaviour, tweeting to her 20,000 Twitter followers she was a “spoiled brat out there” and she was “sorry about her horrible behaviour”.
In her post-match press conference, after her 6-0, 6-3, 6-2 defeat to 10th seed Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro, the Russian native said: “I played very well in the first set. I guess I was starting to overcook it a little bit in the second, got very emotional. I was just going crazy.”
“I’m very disappointed with myself. I was being a little girl.”
Watching the 21-year-old behave like a “spoiled brat” was hard – not because it was an embarrassing display of arrogance, rudeness and unsportsmanlike behaviour – but because I was watching a sportsperson choke under immense psychological pressure.
Yes, toward the end of the game there was some racket throwing and bouncing (not good), a bit of yelling at herself, a host of contorted facial expressions, and a rapidly increasing unforced error count. The worst commentators said was that Gavrilova “unravelled” or she “imploded”.
What Gavrilova didn’t do was scream at the umpire, or blame the crowd, or yell at her coach in the stands. She didn’t snatch a towel out of the ball-kids’ hands and give them a gobfull about their failure to be fast enough between serves. When she “imploded” Gavrilova took it out on herself – quite the antithesis of fellow Australians Nick Kyrgios, Bernard Tomic and, yes, Lleyton Hewitt, whose heated emotions can turn both inward and outward during a match.
Watch the many emotions of Gavrilova during the Australian Open here. Post continues below.
How are elite sports people meant to deal with their very real pressure cooker emotions while out on Centre Court, or on a cricket pitch or netball court?
It’s a hard one to answer when you have never been in that situation yourself, but pressure can do strange things to people. It can make the weak strong and the strong weak. It is a game unto itself.
In the Fourth Round – the highest round she has ever played in a Grand Slam – Gavrilova lost control of her emotions, and hand-in-hand with that came losing control of the game. Once again, tennis proved how so much of the game is played in the head.
“I think I got emotionally fried in the second set,” Gavrilova said at her post match press conference. “I was getting angry with myself, just showing way too much emotion.”
It’s clear Gavrilova was hardest on herself – both during and after the game.
Some have said she doesn’t need to apologise. After all, when Kyrgios, Tomic and Hewitt get “emotionally fried” they don’t.
But Gavrilova’s apologies indicate the young player is setting high standards for both herself out there and for the type of tennis she wants to play. She wants to win on court and in her head. She wants to play her best and be her best – and that is how elite sportspeople should think.