With the calendar edging toward a year since Ana Konjuh returned to the circuit, she is confident she can put at least one label to rest.
Konjuh, a US Open quarterfinalist as a teenager who missed the best part of three years with elbow problems, is looking ahead with optimism after stringing together almost 12 months of tournaments in succession.
“Obviously I am proud of myself, of what I have done,” she said.
“I think we can stop calling it a comeback at this point. I just want to stay healthy and prepare for next year and we will see what we can do.”
The former junior World No.1 is playing in Kazakhstan for the first time this week and Tuesday was a strong 7-6 (6) 6-1 winner over Urszula Radwanska in the opening round of the Astana Open in Nur-Sultan.
Konjuh, 23, who resumed in ITF tournaments last October after undergoing four surgeries on her elbow, has already achieved one major goal during the 2021 season.
During a tremendous run at the 1000 Miami Open, where she posted wins against Madison Keys and Iga Swiatek when reaching the last 16, Konjuh said her aim was to return to the Top 100 this year.
That mission has been accomplished. Konjuh started the week in Nur-Sultan with a ranking of 77.
Konjuh, who peaked at World No.20 in 2017, is hopeful of making further rankings inroads as she looks toward ending her season after playing at Indian Wells next month.
“I started playing at the end of last September in my first ITF, so it has been a long season for me and especially coming off an injury, I have played a lot of matches, a lot of tournaments, having to play through qualies, things like that,” she said.
“The body is good. The elbow is manageable, I would say. It is never going to be normal again, which I accept. It is just a matter of doing the best I can, taking it day by day, just to prepare for each and every match.”
In March, Konjuh spoke of her delight at watching the success of junior peers including Naomi Osaka, Jelena Ostapenko and Daria Kasatkina starring on the WTA Tour.
In early August, Belinda Bencic, who was a great support to Konjuh as she rehabilitated her elbow injury, won an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo.
Konjuh said their performances motivated her to continue to work hard.
“We had a great generation and I think a lot of younger girls are coming as well,” Konjuh said. “So I just feel old at this point on the tour when they are born in 2000, or something like that. I am like, ‘How old is that?’
“It is great to see so many champions, so many girls breaking through and seeing that we all have exactly the same chance right now.