MOSCOW, Russia - Over two hours into an epic tussle with fellow 17-year-old Anastasia Potapova, only one thing went through Olga Danilovic's mind when it came time for a fourth match point.
"‘Hit the ball. Hit the damn ball!'" she recalled in a phone interview after the match. "'Hit the ball and play the point! You’ve got this, it’s here. Play the point, be great.’"
It was indeed a great end for the Serbian teen - daughter of famous basketball player Predrag "Sasha" Danilovic - who put away an emphatic overhead to become the first woman born in the 2000s to win a WTA title, 7-5, 6-7(1), 6-4. Not bad for a lucky loser, the first to take home a championship trophy since Andrea Jaeger in 1980.
Super happy with my performance here in 🇷🇺! Thank you for all kind messages and support! Moscow u have my heart! Hvala svima na divnim porukama i podrsci! 😊❤️ pic.twitter.com/7qjGOTpgvU
— Danilovic Olga (@danilovic_olga) July 29, 2018
"There are so many emotions. It’s an amazing achievement for both of us, to play a WTA final when we are 17 years old, to be there on the court, competing with my friend. It was an amazing match. The emotions, they were there, but I handled them very well."
While Danilovic could have hardly predicted this moment after falling to Paula Badosa Gibert in the final round of qualifying, she couldn't quite shake the feeling that her game was moving in the right direction, having just won an ITF Pro Circuit title in Versmold, Germany.
"After I lost the qualies, I was disappointed, but I lost to a good girl, so I was just thunking, ‘Okay, next tournament, maybe it’s going to be mine.’ But when I got that chance, I really took it. I really felt like, ‘Okay, this is a chance, I got in, I should take this chance.’ And I took it, and I’m so proud of that."
Her mind was ready, but the rest of her was nearly back on a plane to Belgrade.
"My mom bought the tickets, by the way, back to Belgrade, because lucky losers in these kind of events, it’s not that easy. I don't think I've ever been a lucky loser in any tournament before.
"So we were in Red Square, just walking around, and my coach [former ATP World No.2 Alex Corretja] called me and he said, ‘Okay, you have to come back, you’re playing tomorrow.’ And I’m like, ‘No, I lost. You were there.’ And he said, ‘No no, you got in, you’re playing tomorrow.’ I’m like, ‘No way!’ We came back very fast to the hotel, to prepare for my match."
Luck got her into the main draw, but little else was easy about Danilovic's week in Moscow, earning wins over Claro Open Colsanitas champion Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, former World No.15 Kaia Kanepi, Wimbledon semifinalist and World No.10 Julia Goerges, and Brisbane International runner-up Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
— WTA (@WTA) July 29, 2018
"When I saw the draw, it was like, ‘Okay, this is a great opportunity.’ I didn’t expect anything from myself, only to play with them, and just to see where I am with them. And when I saw that I could actually play with them, it was a very nice feeling. I had a tough draw, honestly; I had to beat one of the Top 10 players in the world, and that's just an even greater feeling."
For all of her incredible victories, the final against Potapova proved the most surreal. Playing in front of her home crowd, the Russian had never lost to Danilovic in five previous junior encounters - including the 2015 Les Petit As and the 2016 Australian Open. The lucky loser rallied from within five points of defeat to secure victory on her 47th winner of the match.
"She’s an amazing friend. I know her since all my life; we’ve been playing all the same tournaments since we were 12! I think it’s a big achievement for both of us to be in a WTA final. There were so many good girls and players here in the tournament, and to play that final, it’s just an amazing feeling. There is not much to say, the pictures kind of say it all!"
Mature and well-spoken, Danilovic is still very much a teenager, eager to unwind after a whirlwind week - but not before promising to respond to each and every message sent by friends and family after the final.
"When I go to the phone now, I -- pfft!" she looks down and laughs. "Wow, so many messages! I just saw that it’s full of messages. But it’s nice.
"I haven't been at home for a long time, so I'm looking forward to that and seeing everyone. Everything’s just happening so fast at tournaments, you don’t realize what’s actually in the big picture. You just see yourself, and matches and more matches, so I’m just going to go home and enjoy with my family, and then we’ll see.
"I'll also make some Instagram posts!"