PARIS -- Tennis can be a lonely sport. Slovakia's Anna Karolina Schmiedlova has been grinding away on the circuit for more than 10 years. Her ranking rose to a career-high No.26 in 2015. She has battled through injuries, surgery and dips in form to build a career as a traveling pro.
Her career highlights -- 2013 Roland Garros girls' runner-up, 3 WTA 250 titles, a pair of WTA 1000 quarterfinals, a trio of Slam third-round appearances -- have been celebrated in the shadows.
On Saturday, Schmiedlova, 28, continued her march through the draw at the French Open, defeating American qualifier Kayla Day 6-1, 6-3 to reach the fourth round of a Slam for the first time in her career.
"I thought it would be a dream to reach at least the third round here because it's my favorite tournament, definitely," Schmiedlova said. "Now I'm in the second week of a Grand Slam so it's the greatest achievement of my whole career."
For the first time in her career, Schmiedlova's mother and father attended an event and had no idea what they were in for.
"They just came here to see the courts, the facilities, how it works at a Grand Slam," Schmiedmlova said. "And in the end, they stayed one extra week than expected.
Support, camaraderie and family have been the hallmarks of Schmiedlova's breakthrough run in Paris. In support of her best friends on tour, Maryna Zavatska and Kateryna Baindl, Schmiedmlova came onto the court for her first-round match decked out in the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
"I'm close to them and I feel the problems that they have, that they cannot go back home," Schmiedlova said. "But it's a very difficult situation because I don't have any problems with the Russian players in general. It's just a difficult situation, politics, that I don't want to get into. But I support Ukraine from my side.
"I can separate sport and politics because I have a home. I have a place to go back. I have family that are safe and they can come here.
"But for many people, maybe on both sides, they cannot go home. I think that's a very difficult part. They have to go from tournament to tournament. I see many of them crying a lot and thinking about their families at home. So I don't think it's possible to separate them when you don't have peace of mind. You cannot focus on your tennis."
Here's more with Schmiedlova as she looks to keep up her dream run:
WTA Insider: How important was your win over Kudermetova for your confidence and belief? She has been playing very well.
Schmiedlova: She definitely had a great couple of tournaments this last month. I cannot say I had a lot of confidence going to that match but from the beginning, I played a good level of tennis.
But then you have to prove the next match. It's never easier. It's maybe even harder.
But I had a couple of experiences like this, winning against a top player and then the next day it's a completely different day. Tennis is never easy. But I'm happy that here I got it to be a different level, into the second week.
WTA Insider: You've had to battle through injuries, ranking drops and tough losses. What has been the key to your journey to get to this day?
Schmiedlova: It's very difficult. The season never ends. It's good in one way that you have every week new opportunities. But on the other way, it's difficult physically and mentally. It's difficult to choose your tournaments and schedule. It's been a difficult path.
I'm a little bit older now so maybe it's one of my last years. So I'm very happy that I can always remember that I got into the fourth round of my favorite tournament. I played finals of juniors here, first time I qualified here, I played third round twice here, I played top players on Chatrier. So it's the best memories here. It feels probably, of all the courts around the world, it feels like home for me. Even if I'm not a top player, this is my favorite place.
I have great memories. I remember every loss, every heartbreak. Traveling around the world I gained so much wisdom. I learned a lot from it. Also mentally, I became stronger for life.
WTA Insider: How important was it for you to have this achievement at this point in your career?
Schmiedlova: I will always remember this. I am telling myself and other people, we have to remember the moments. We have to be happy for these moments. Today I will be really enjoy this win and being in the last 16. I will try quicker to forget the bad moments, because they will come, many of them.
WTA Insider: You talked about how lonely the sport can be. But here you are surrounded by friends and family and you make your best result.
Schmiedlova: Exactly. It's nice. It's a very different experience than how it was when I first came here.
WTA Insider: What are your thoughts on facing Coco Gauff next?
Schmiedlova: Actually, I thought I was going to play against Iga [laughs]. I never look at the draw at a tournament. My coach told me I was high in the draw, so I just thought I would play Iga after every next match. Today I thought for sure it has to be her.
Coco is also a top player. I lost against her last year. I respect her a lot.
It's my favorite Slam. I've played on the big courts here before so it won't be a new thing. I will try not to feel the pressure on me that I'm up against such a good player. Sometimes I respect the other players too much, so that maybe holds me back against top players.