Sport

Canberra Velocity's Alison Bai draws inspiration from Daria Gavrilova

Canberra Velocity leader Alison Bai will draw inspiration from Daria Gavrilova's remarkable rise in the tennis world to fuel her ambitions to break into major tournaments this year.

But first Bai is focused on helping the Velocity claim the Asia-Pacific Tennis League title and the $30,000 winner's cheque up for grabs at Melbourne Park on Monday and Tuesday.

Alison Bai hopes to spearhead the Canberra Velocity's bid to win the ATL title this week.
Alison Bai hopes to spearhead the Canberra Velocity's bid to win the ATL title this week. Photo: Scott Barbour

Bai made her Australian Open comeback in the women's doubles last week, teaming up with Naikithia Baines but lost in the first round to United States duo Irina Falconi and Vavara Lepchenko.

It was the first time the 26-year-old had played at the Australian Open since she was 18, and a brief taste of life on the professional circuit has added motivation to her quest to rise up the rankings.

Canberra's Alison Bai is drawing inspiration from Daria Gavrilova's rise through the ranks.
Canberra's Alison Bai is drawing inspiration from Daria Gavrilova's rise through the ranks. Photo: Eddie Jim

Bai had her best season last year, winning a Pro Tour title and rising to No.305 in the world.

And "Dasha" Gavrilova is providing extra inspiration after bursting on to the Australian stage, winning the Hopman Cup with Nick Kyrgios and forcing her way into the fourth round at the grand slam.

Gavrilova started the 2015 season ranked at No.231, but made a rapid rise to finish the year at No.36.

"When you see all of your colleagues playing at the Australian Open, you can definitely doubt yourself. But I love playing and competing," Bai said.

"My mindset has changed in that I've learned to love the game more than I did when I put pressure on myself when I was younger.

"I'm more appreciative of the opportunity I have to play the sport and do something different. I can always go and work in an office for the rest of my life, but only a certain amount of time I can play tennis.

"You just see the success that Gavrilova's had ... she won a couple of tournaments and then had a good run, bang she was 40 in the world.

"That's given me lot more motivation and belief that it doesn't take much time to get to where you want to, you've just got to stay at it and do the right things with a bit of luck along the way. I know it's possible to get there."

The Velocity will play Royal South Yarras on Monday for a spot in the semi-final against the winner of the Brisbane Sharks-Prospect Flames clash.

Canberra junior Kaitlin Staines, 16, is playing in the Australian Open junior girls tournament and it's unclear whether she will be available for the Velocity.

Alex Nancarrow has recovered from a hand injury while Ashley Keir and Tyra Calderwood will also play. Twelve-year-old Annerly Poulos missed a spot in the Australian Open juniors, but could join the Velocity.

The $30,000 in prizemoney will be a major boost to Bai and her teammates as they play tournaments around the country and the world "stretching their dollars".

Bai will play in Launceston next week and has been staying with friends for her 10 days at the Australian Open.

The Velocity won the north conference ATL title in December and has its sights set on a higher prize.

"Hopefully I can help the other girls out to lift them to take this opportunity," Bai said.

"It's great to be a part of a team and playing at Melbourne Park during the Australian Open, taking advantage of the atmosphere down here.

"It's a huge opportunity and the prizemoney would make a massive difference to help us keep travelling and playing, and for the younger girls the chance to get that winning feeling."