After spending the best part of the past decade at the very top of women's tennis, the last year or so has been somewhat of a reality check for Svetlana Kuznetsova.
A loss of form, combined with an extended spell on the sidelines recovering from a knee injury, led to the Russian sliding down the rankings and also raised questions as to whether she had the appetite to make it back to the top.
Still just 27, the two-time Grand Slam champion is far from finished, though. And this week the competitive fire was clear for all to see as she came through three rounds of qualifying before reaching the quarterfinals of the Apia International Sydney.
Wins over Julia Goerges and Caroline Wozniacki have prompted many to install the Russian as their dark horse for the Australian Open. But more convincing than any performance on court, have been her words off it.
"I never felt sick of the game because I love tennis a lot, but I have been sick of the traveling and staying away from home and my family and friends," Kuznetsova said after her win over Wozniacki.
"I love to work. I love to sweat on the court," she added. "Now I'm back, I feel fresh, and I feel like I want to play."
Kuznetsova, alongside Elena Dementieva, Anastasia Myskina and Maria Sharapova, was one of the first wave of Russian players to break through at Grand Slam level, stunning the New York crowds to win the US Open as a precocious 19-year-old in the summer of 2004.
While Myskina and Dementieva called time on their careers in their mid and late-twenties, respectively, Kuznetsova is keen to emphasize that she will not be following suit.
"I feel like I have so much more to do in tennis. I will have time to stay at home after my career. I have no reasons to stop. Myskina stopped because of her baby and the injury. Dementieva stopped because she decided it was time. My time is not yet," she said.
While her time is certainly not up just yet, Kuznetsova is honest enough to admit that after 12 years travelling the globe, the knee injury, and the time it afforded her away from the court, was something of a blessing in disguise.
"I didn't have surgery, but I was two months on crutches. It was a hard time, but then it was also good for me too," the World No.85 said. "I hadn't stopped for 10 years. I was playing almost all the year, all the Grand Slams, and somehow I needed that break.
"When I was first home I was like 'Really! I don't have to wake up and go to the practice courts tomorrow.' But then after a few months, I felt I needed to work and needed to have a goal."
And that goal was the start of the 2013 season. Now, refreshed, recharged and refocused, Kuznetsova is prepared physically and mentally for a renewed assault on the game's biggest prizes.
"I knew it would be very hard to come back, and there is still more work ahead. But I've been working hard. I didn't have a lot of time also to prepare this season - I had only five weeks - but I've done my best.
"The thing is, I'm positive and happy. And this is, above everything else, what's important for me."