MELBOURNE, Australia - No.11 seed Marta Kostyuk captured her maiden major title on Saturday, ousting top seed Rebeka Masarova, 7-5, 1-6, 6-4 in the Australian Open girl's singles final.
"I was more excited yesterday when I go through the semis," she admitted in her post-match press conference.
Masarova made a breakout run last spring when she defeated Amanda Anisimova to win the the junior French Open crown, and arrived in Australia aiming to wrest the No.1 ITF ranking from Anastasia Potapova, who did not play this week.
Kostyuk, by contrast, was playing her third season on the junior circuit and had posted consistent, if unremarkable, results at the biggest events - making back-to-back quarterfinal appearances at Eddie Herr and the Orange Bowl.
But things started to change last spring when she began working with manager Ivan Ljubicic, a former ATP pro who coaches Roger Federer.
"I improved a lot, and I feel it. Maybe the biggest improvement period was in May when Ivan invited me to practice in Monte Carlo for ten days. And after that I won Grade Two.
"After that I start to work on my serve a little more and practice more and more. That's when I signed with Ivan and start to practice in Cannes, in Kiev, so everywhere. It was fine. And I'm trying to work hard."
Currently coached by her mother, Kostyuk credited Ljubicic with helping her rise so quickly, and with helping her meet Federer during her stay in Melbourne.
? #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 28, 2017
"He did a lot. He give me a bit of his experience and big tennis. And I met finally Roger today. He congratulated me. And I took a photo with him, so I was very excited."
The 15-year-old took a 5-2 lead to start Satuday's final, only to see Masarova save four set points and level the opening set. Undaunted, the Ukrainian reeled off eight of the final 10 points to take a one set lead.
Still, Masarova was undoubtedly in the match by then, and made her presence known in the second set, breaking four times to force a decider.
"I won first set, but it was very tight, like it was 5-2. I had four set points, and I finished just on the score 6-5," she explained.
"Maybe when we start to play second set, her consistency was like a bit more than mine, and she was more in the game. And I just lost a little bit of this.
"When I started to play second set, I just started to think how it was good that I almost won. And that what didn't really helped me."
The pair exchanged four straight breaks to begin the final set, with Kostyuk ultimately breaking in the crucial ninth game to serve out the biggest title of her young career in one hour and 55 minutes.
"Maybe when score was 3-1, I just stopped thinking and started to play again, so I was ready for the third set."
The doubles final took place 24 hours prior and saw No.3 seeds Bianca Andreescu and Carson Branstine defeat the Polish pair of Maja Chwalinska and Iga Swiatek.
? Wilson Tennis (@WilsonTennis) January 28, 2017