It's been a long, but rewarding road for Daria Kasatkina in her journey back to the winner's circle.
The 23-year-old Russian battled past No. 13 seed Marie Bouzkova, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, on Friday in Melbourne to lift the Phillip Island Trophy. The triumph marked Kasatkina's first WTA singles title since October 2018, when she tasted victory on home soil in Moscow.
For the former world No. 10, she credited her work with a sports psychologist toward helping navigate demoralizing bumps in the road players on tour experience.
"I learned a lot. But the main thing was that I learned your confidence shouldn't depend on your results," Kasatkina. "It doesn't matter if you win or lose, it doesn't have to break your inside child. This is the main thing I learned. I think this is very important because this is true.
"We are losing many matches during the year. Apparently in the best case there is few weeks where you're not losing a match. To lose one match doesn't have to kill yourself from inside, so... I think that was the main thing."
The tournament was staged as part of Tennis Australia's modified summer series Down Under, allowing WTA players eliminated in the first week of the Australian Open to have an extra playing opportunity. In her run to the crown, Kasatkina defeated No. 7 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, No. 4 seed Petra Martic and American Danielle Collins.
"There was a match against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round. It was the first set, the match was going bad for me definitely," Kasatkina, now 3-3 in tour-level finals, reflected. "Somehow I was able to click something in the game. I don't even understand exactly what. I just turned the pattern of the game and I won. After the match, I felt different. I felt like something changed that day."
Bouzkova was seeking her first WTA title in her second final. A round earlier, the Czech outlasted 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu in three hours and two minutes after overcoming a 1-4 final-set deficit and later saving two match points.