Dasha's the last Aussie standing, but she's not alone

World No.127’s comeback is picking up speed again at Roland-Garros 

Daria Saville, R1, Roland-Garros 2022 Philippe Montigny / FFT
 - Chris Oddo

Daria Saville started 2022 at the bottom of the heap.

Outside the top 600 when she left Australia in February, and with doubts about her health after Achilles tendon surgery in 2021, the former world No.20 had not travelled for tennis in well over a year, except for one trip to the Billie Jean King Cup in Prague last November.

She left for North America two months ago with trepidation, but also determination. Fast-forward to now, there’s also confidence – and it’s growing with each win.  

The 28-year-old Saville reached the third round at Roland-Garros for the first time since 2018 on Wednesday with a squeaky clean performance against No.32. seed Petra Kvitova.

The Aussie perfectly executed her game plan as she waltzed past the two-time Grand Slam champion, 6-4, 6-2. 

“It feels good,” Saville told the press. “I played really good. I served well, I was switched on from the first point until the last point.

"Obviously, really happy that it finished in two sets, under two hours, it’s always nice to get a win under my belt in under two hours.” 

A fast start in Paris comes as a pleasant surprise after a fruitless stretch on the European clay for Saville.

Notable performances in North America, where she reached the fourth round at Indian Wells (as a qualifier) and the quarter-finals in Miami, set a positive tone for her season, but Saville struggled to find her clay game as the losses piled up this spring. 

Daria Saville, R1, Roland-Garros 2022Philippe Montigny / FFT

Help from friends 

In Strasbourg, where Saville lost her fourth consecutive match, to Anna Lena Friedsam in a third-set tiebreak, the Aussie got some much-needed advice from a venerable pair.

Sam Stosur, Roland-Garros runner-up in 2010, and Rennae Stubbs, a former runner-up in doubles and mixed doubles in Paris, told Saville exactly what she needed to hear: don’t be so hard on yourself. 

“I spent so much time with them in Strasbourg,” she says. “My coach wasn’t there, but they watched my match and we had a good chat after the match, we went out to dinner and we kind of came up with a plan for how I am going to play here [in Paris], because I think I was a little bit disappointed and I didn’t find as many positives as they did. They pointed out so many positives and I was like ‘Ah, okay, this is good to hear.’” 

Their words helped Saville sort through her feelings, and vanquish a few doubts.

“They basically (said) to not be so hard on myself, and I (felt a) little bit that I was losing the focus and they kind of mentored me," she said.

"Sam was like: ‘This is what I normally do,’ and I was like ‘Okay, I’m going to try it here’, and it’s working out.”

Expect a battle v Trevisan 

The only Australian player left in either singles draw will now attempt to reach the round of 16 at a Slam for the first time since 2017, and the first time ever at Roland-Garros, when she faces Italy’s Martina Trevisan in the third round. 

We should expect a heated battle, Saville says. 

“Martina, it’s going to be interesting,” she said on Wednesday. “It’s going to be fun, at least I think we’re going to have some epic rallies.” 

Saville says she chose to practise with Trevisan before her match on Wednesday, not even realising that she could potentially face her next. 

“It was fun, even in the warm-up, we were grinding,” she said of her practice session with the 2020 quarter-finalist. “I think it’s going to be a fun one. And lots of emotions for both of us. We both play with a lot of passion and we’re friendly off the court. 

“She’s confident, she’s feeling good, but I’m feeling pretty good right now as well.” 

Martina Trevisan, Roland Garros 2022, second round© Andre Ferreira/FFT

Saville has never faced Trevisan at tour level, but she did tell reporters of their only meeting in the juniors, which she won in three sets. 

“The funniest thing, I beat her in 2008, epic match. I literally think it’s going to be the same. It’s going to be like long rallies, lots of screaming Forzas, Vamoses, Come ons.” 

Whatever the result, Saville is not shy about the fact that moving deeper in a Slam again, after all that she has been through, means the world to her. She’s come back from the brink, and hopes to keep flying the Aussie flag in Paris. 

“I really want to make the second week and I think anything is possible and now," she said. "I’m going to go out there and play to win again.”