Daria Gavrilova remonstrates with the umpire after her line call plea was rejected.
Daria Gavrilova remonstrates with the umpire after her line call plea was rejected.

Devastated Dasha ‘can’t believe it got away’

SHE copped the graveyard shift and Daria Gavrilova's Australian Open hopes were also buried on Thursday morning in a stunning collapse.

At 1.51am, Gavrilova had suffered a heartbreaking 7-5 6-3 loss to Belgian Elise Mertens after holding a 5-0 first-set lead with a controversial blow-up with the umpire marring the second set.

The match did not begin until 11.59pm, the latest ever at Melbourne Park - owing to the five-set epic finally settled 8-6 between Grigor Dimitrov and Mackenzie McDonald, and the three matches that lasted more than two hours each preceding it.

When it finally started, Gavrilova's assertive brand of tennis and clean striking saw her race to a 5-0 lead and a repeat of her first-round 6-1 6-1 demolition of American qualifier Irina Falconi was on the cards.

Elise Mertens celebrates her incredible win.
Elise Mertens celebrates her incredible win.

 

But in an extraordinary collapse, she stopped to a standstill as Mertens woke from her slumber to take total control.

Mertens found her range and as the previously short exchanges became 18-shot rallies, the pressure told on Gavrilova and her errors suddenly flowed.

Mertens peeled off five consecutive games of her own to tie things up at 5-5.

In that time Gavrilova had blown eight set points and double-faulted twice facing break-point.

"That sucks," Gavrilova said summing up her feelings succinctly.

"I can't believe it got away from me but it just happened and it happened quickly.

"I've seen players lose before from 5-0 up and thought, surely they could have just hit a winner but clearly I couldn't so it's a new experience."

The 23-year-old served 10 double faults for the match, while her unforced errors went through the roof with a total of 40.

She was rocked in the second set when, trailing 4-2, she tried to challenge an incorrect ruling but umpire Aurelie Tourte said she was too late and had looked to her box first.

"I raised my hand straight away," Gavrilova said, with Toute replying: "No, you were waiting".

Commentators described it as a "horrendous call".

Daria Gavrilova challenges the line call, but it was to no avail.
Daria Gavrilova challenges the line call, but it was to no avail.

Post-match Gavrilova said she had raised her hand within seconds although admitted her coach Jarryd Maher did signal.

"She said my coach told me to but he did go like that (pointed upwards with her finger) but that could have meant anything."

The previous record for the latest starting match in Melbourne was between Grigor Dimitrov and Frenchman Richard Gasquet last year. That match began at 11.58pm.

In a strange twist, that match followed Gavrilova and Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky onto the court.

The latest finish to a match played at the Australian Open, or any grand slam, was in 2008 when Lleyton Hewitt and Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis played a five-set match that finished at 4.33am.

Daria Gavrilova argues her case with the umpire.
Daria Gavrilova argues her case with the umpire.


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