BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - After a breakthrough 2010 season that saw her go as high as No.29 in singles and win two Grand Slam titles in doubles, she underwent knee surgery at the start of 2011 and struggled to find her winning form again, falling as low as No.259 - but Yaroslava Shvedova caught fire again in 2012, making deep runs at two Grand Slams and setting a new career-high of No.25. And for that, she is the WTA's Comeback Player Of The Year.
The left knee surgery that caused Shvedova to miss the early part of the 2011 season had some lingering effects - she wouldn't win back-to-back matches for a full 12-month span between February 2011 and February 2012. But the good results started to creep in again at a few clay court tournaments in the spring - quarterfinals of Bogotá, third round at Charleston - and it was at the biggest clay court stop, Roland Garros, where the talented Kazakh would come full circle.
Having already been the first Kazakh to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam - doing it at the 2010 French Open - Shvedova did it all over again at the 2012 French Open, stunning the defending champion along the way, winning the last 10 games in a row to beat Li Na in the fourth round. "This is the most incredible win I've had," she said - she almost made her first Grand Slam semifinal too, leading 4-2 in the third before falling to Petra Kvitova in the quarters, 36 62 64.
A few weeks later, Shvedova made the fourth round at Wimbledon, losing a tight one to eventual champion Serena Williams, 61 26 75 - but it may not have been that close encounter with Williams that turned the most heads, it may have been her 60 64 third round win over Sara Errani, the first set being a golden set - the first golden set recorded by a woman in the Open Era.
Having started 2012 at No.206, Shvedova moved up to No.28 on October 8, passing the career-high of No.29 she had set in the 2010 season; she set a new career-high of No.25 on October 29 and finished the year ranked No.29.
Shvedova commented on being the WTA's Comeback Player Of The Year.
"I am very happy to get this award and honored that the media voted for me," she said. "I was surprised when I heard the news. I am very happy and proud of my comeback this year. I worked very hard with my team to do this and it's nice to receive the award now. It's not only for me, it's a victory me and my team."
And in a season that had so many highs, Shvedova pointed to a specific one as her favorite: "My biggest highlight was making a golden set," Shvedova declared. "That is probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing and something only one other person has done, so it will always be very special. Also it was super exciting to qualify for the Olympics by reaching the quarterfinals at Roland Garros."
And on the knee injury that dug the hole she climbed out of? "My knee is 100% fine now, but I still do specific exercises to keep it strong so that hopefully I won't have any more problems with it and can keep improving my game."
Shvedova is currently doing her off-season training in Buenos Aires and will play a full Australian season: Auckland, Hobart, then the Australian Open. She will also compete in Fed Cup after the year's first Grand Slam tournament.
She hopes to keep rising: "I'm very happy to be the Comeback Player Of The Year but I'm not done yet! I'm going to keep working hard and my goal is to be Top 20 in singles, and it'd be nice to be back in the Top 10 for doubles too."
Comeback Player Of The Year was voted for by international tennis media. Check out a list of former winners of all WTA Player Awards by clicking here.