Meet Daria Gavrilova, a 21-year-old tennis superstar and health fanatic ranked an impressive #2 in Australia and #25 worldwide. While we’ve all got fitness dreams, playing sport at an elite level is something else entirely. We chatted to Daria about what it takes to make it to the top, what her training and diet looks like, and what kind of steely attitude we’ll need if we want to make a splash in sport.

Playing sport at an elite level is an incredible commitment and can become taxing, what advice do you have for other women looking to explore a sporting career?

It’s an incredible opportunity to play professional sport and I recommend it to any young girl. We are very lucky in tennis as our sport leads the way in prize money, equality and opportunities for females. If you start playing tennis with the goal of just to be a pro then it can be a long journey—it’s so important to love the sport and enjoy it as much as possible. If you have this attitude, nothing bad can come from it and if it leads to a life playing professionally then that is just a bonus.

What is your favourite competition to play in?

I love to play in Melbourne at the Australian Open. I’ve had my two best Grand Slam results there and the crowd support is just amazing.

Tell us about your preparation for the Australian Open?

My preparation for the Australian Open really started in mid-November. At the beginning of the pre-season I do a lot of off court running and weights, and then slowly build into tennis as well as the off-court training. It can be very tiring in the off season getting all the work in, but hopefully puts me in a good position to have a great year.

Could you talk us through a typical day of training?

A tough training day includes a morning session of tennis, usually lasting 2 hours followed by an afternoon session between 1.5–2 hours. At the end of this I would do some cardio work or sprint drills followed by weights. The days are long and tiring so I often finish with physio and some massage. I’m always tired as there’s not a lot of time off.

Could you share your favourite workout to get tennis-fit this summer?

Tennis is a great way for anyone to stay fit. It trains your cardio system and you are using all your muscles. It’s also very social and fun—I really recommend it.

Any tips for playing a mean game of tennis?

Be aggressive and go for your shots!

You have a foodie Instagram page, Eat Like an Athlete, can you tell us what your favourite food is?

I love all foods—but try to eat pretty healthy. I like visiting my parents in Russia, and there are some home-made meals that are old favourites. I also love sushi and cheese and cashews are a great healthy snack. Travelling the world gives me an amazing exposure to food and I really enjoy trying different things.

Daria teaches us how to ace our serve in the February magazine.