18-year-old Dayana Yastremska willed her idol to victory 10 years ago at the Australian Open. Now she'll face her in the biggest match of her young career.
WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen
January 18, 2019

MELBOURNE, Australia - How's this for the 10-year challenge? A decade on from willing Serena Williams to an Australian Open victory from the quiet of her living room in Odessa, 18-year-old Dayana Yastremska is set to stand across the net from the legend on Rod Laver Arena with a spot in the Round of 16 on the line. 

"When I was eight years old I saw her playing some of the Grand Slams," Yastremska said. 

"I think it was Australia Open because everything was bright blue."

"She was losing. I went fast to my room and I took my tennis racquet, I went back to the living room and I made the imitations when she was hitting the balls. I felt that I am helping her to win the balls. 

"She won the ball, she won one point, she won one game, she won the set, she won the match. I was screaming the same time she was screaming. 

"When she won the match I had in my thought that I guess we won together. It's our win. 

"And then I had another thought. Maybe one day I will play with her in a big arena. And this day is going to be tomorrow. The time passes so fast. 

"I remember that from childhood and it's a dream come true. So I'm going to try to win her. I'm going to try to show my best tennis. And maybe later I will tell her this small story."

The Ukrainian teen has enjoyed a phenomenal rise through the rankings over the last 12 months. She began the 2018 season outside the Top 150 and steadily worked herself up to finish at No.60, bagging her first WTA Title in Hong Kong last fall. 

READ: Getting to Know Dayana Yastremska

Playing in just her second main draw at a Slam, Yastremska is into the third round of the Australian Open after wins over two quality veterans in Sam Stosur and Carla Suárez Navarro. On Saturday she will test herself against the woman who inspired her to pursue a professional career when she was eight years old.

"Since I was four and a half I started playing tennis," Yastremska said. "When I was eight I already realized what is going on. I already knew what I want and who I want to be. 

"Looking at her, I knew one day I am going to get to play with her."

"For me it will be a history match to play against a legend of tennis and I appreciate a lot that I have this moment and this situation to play against her. I think a young generation playing against an experienced legend is amazing."

"I just said hello, you have a great daughter, I respect you a lot as a person as a player. She said thank you very much, you're so nice, so sweet. It was a nice conversation."

Such is Yastremska's admiration of the 23-time major champion, that she approached Serena out of the blue in the locker room before the tournament began. The youngster had no idea she could face Serena in the third round, but she simply had to get something off her chest.

"It was after practice, I was changing," Yastremska said. "She passed to go to practice. I just said hello, you have a great daughter, I respect you a lot as a person as a player. 

"She said thank you very much, you're so nice, so sweet. It was a nice conversation."

"I did not know I would play with her in the third round, but after I saw it I thought wow, that's nice. It's a moment I'm going to remember forever."

"Of course when I go on court tomorrow I won't think about everything. I'm going to just fight and try and show my best tennis and try to win her. I just respect her."