She was one of the WTA's breakout rising stars before turning 21, but Anna Karolina Schmiedlova has had more than her fair share of struggles since a career-best 2015 season which saw her win two WTA titles, reach the third round of the US Open and reach a career-high ranking of World No.26.
In the same age bracket as Elina Svitolina, Daria Gavrilova and Eugenie Bouchard, Schmiedlova seemed to be ahead of the curve amongst her contemporaries, but the 23-year-old has needed to rebuild her career one step at a time over the past 18 months.
Nonetheless, Schmiedlova's 2017 season quietly began to move her back in the right direction, and here are some reasons why the Slovak can return to the WTA with regularity in 2018.
1. She bounced back from adversity in 2017.
Two years removed from the best season of her career, 2017 proved to be a redemption year of sorts for the Slovakian.
After reaching a career-high of World No.26 in 2015, posting six Top 20 victories and a pair of third round showings at Grand Slams before turning 21, Schmiedlova's ascent came to a sputtering halt in 2016.
She went winless in WTA events from January to July, and when the season was said and done, the once-rising star saw her ranking plummet from the Top 30 to outside the world's Top 200.
3. Needing to start nearly from scratch, she got back on the winning track...
Despite an inauspicious start to the year in which she lost three of her first four singles matches, Schmiedlova raised a trophy a total of three times last year, posting a 39-22 record in main draw play.
Having seen her ranking fall outside the Top 250 over the course of 2017, Schmiedlova started rising in the right direction by the time the year ended.
The Slovak ended the season ranked No.133, and currently sits at No.137 - nearly 100 places better than where she began 2017 overall.
4. ...and that winning came in more than just finals.
The Slovakian posted an 11-match winning streak on the ITF Circuit from the end of May through mid-June, as she also reached the quarterfinals or better in nine tournaments on the season.
En route to winning two of her three ITF titles over that 11-match span, Schmiedlova defeated six players ranked above her, as she came into the $25,000 tournament in Grado, Italy ranked World No.250.
Those victories included wins over Viktoriya Tomova, the top seed, and the fast-rising Vera Lapko, the No.2 seed, to win an ITF $25,000 event in Stare Splavy in the Czech Republic, without the loss of a set.
5. She has a Top 30 pedigree.
Schmiedlova has shown that she can win consistently at WTA level with confidence behind her, as she did in her breakout season.
As a 20-year-old in 2015, she reached three WTA finals, winning two titles in Katowice and Bucharest. Her blistering two-handed backhand proved to be a threat on all surfaces, as her two trophies came on indoor hard and clay, respectively, while reaching the third round of the US Open.
She also notched notable victories over Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki, as well as an emphatic first - and to date, only - Top 10 victory over Roberta Vinci at the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai, losing just one game.
However, it was a match she lost - a run to the final of the Rio Open that February - where Schmiedlova first started to believe she belonged.
"It was the first time I got to the final," she told WTA Insider that summer. "It was something incredible. I never got to the semifinal before, or even quarterfinals maybe. It was where I started to believe that I could be a great player."
6. She finished 2017 on a true high...
Her most impressive victory came as the season wound down, as Schmiedlova won her biggest title in two years with a victory at the $80,000 W.L. Amos Sr. Tennis Classic on the ITF Circuit, played on the campus of Mercer University in the last week of October.
After being pushed to three sets in each of her first three matches against Katerina Stewart, and former Top 100 players Grace Min and Stefanie Voegele, Schmiedlova rounded into form to defeat Sweden's Rebecca Peterson and fellow comeback kid Victoria Duval in the championship match.
"I don't know how this happened today," Schmiedlova told reporters after the match. I had to play the conditions and it was really tough with the wind and the cold at the beginning. I tried to get more balls in the court and not play so aggressive. The second set I was real happy with the way I played.
"I'm just happy to win any match I can."
Read more: Anna Karolina Schmiedlova Takes Macon Title
7. ...and that all-too-key confidence is back on the upswing.
While competing at the Koser Jewelers $25,000 Tennis Challenge in Landisville, Penn. in August - where she finished runner-up to the aforementioned Lapko in a third-set tiebreak, Schmiedlova spoke candidly about her career swoon - confessing that she couldn't pinpoint it to one particular cause.
"If I knew, I would have changed [it earlier]. I have no idea," Schmiedlova told Lancaster Online in Landisville. "I lost some matches and then I lost my confidence. It's probably everything to do with my confidence. Sometimes I don’t believe in myself and don’t play that well and I couldn’t break it last year."
"I had a terrible year last year. I won only three or four matches all year. It was really bad and I dropped all of my points. I changed a few things at the start of this year and it didn’t work out either. I went back to my coach from my grade school years and I started to play really good this summer.”
With wins aplenty behind her as she heads into the new season, another clean slate might be just what this former rising star needs to find her feet again.