Daria Gavrilova of Australia celebrates during her third round match against Kristina Mladenovic of France at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Jan. 22, 2016.(AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Rick Rycroft
January 22, 2016

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Russian-born Daria Gavrilova hasn't been an Australian citizen for very long, only receiving her passport in December and permission to represent the country at WTA Tour events.

It certainly hasn't muted the country's excitement as Gavrilova advanced to the round of 16 at the Australian Open on Friday with a stirring 6-4, 4-6, 11-9 win over 28th-seeded Kristina Mladenovic of France in front of a rowdy, highly partisan crowd.

Treating Gavrilova as if she was a native-born star like Lleyton Hewitt or Nick Kyrgios, the crowd chanted ''Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi! Oi! Oi!'' during changeovers and roared when she broke Mladenovic's serve to go up 10-9 in the final set.

When she finally closed it out after nearly three hours, Gavrilova told the audience in her post-match interview, ''I want to hug the whole stadium.''

''I never had a match like that in this stage (of a Grand Slam),'' she said. ''I could say it is my best win of my whole career.''

It's actually the second big win for Gavrilova this week - she also had an upset win over two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the second round.

The 21-year-old Gavrilova has lived in Australia for several years, drawn to the country by her boyfriend Luke Saville, a former top-ranked junior player. The two met at junior events and started dating in 2011, and soon after, Gavrilova began training in the country with an Australian coach, the former WTA player Nicole Pratt.

She became a permanent resident in 2013 and started representing Australia at the Grand Slams at the 2014 U.S. Open. She couldn't make the switch at other WTA events until she became a citizen, though, meaning she spent a year in limbo representing Russia when she played in places like Tokyo and Toronto.

To Australians, though, she's as Aussie as they come. She speaks with a hybrid Russian-Australian accent, supports the Australian Football League team Carlton, and likes to eat Vegemite and avocado on toast - a particularly Australian breakfast.

And now the green-and-gold-wearing fans at Melbourne Park have someone to cheer for after Samantha Stosur, Hewitt and Kyrgios have all been ousted. Bernard Tomic and John Millman are the only Australians left in the men's draw; they play each other on Saturday for a spot in the fourth round.

''I get funny about it and happy,'' she said of being a crowd favorite here. ''But I love it. I'm embracing it.''

Gavrilova is sure to have the crowd behind her again when she plays No. 10-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro for a spot in the quarterfinals.

''I don't feel any pressure,'' she said, ''but I really want to keep going and keep winning.''

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