Five years ago, Tamira Paszek came to Québec in search of a way back to the top of women's tennis.
"It was my first time to come to Québec in 2010," the Austrian told WTA Insider after a first round win over Kateryna Kozlova. "I have great memories from Québec City; I absolutely love this tournament."
Coming up in a generation that featured Caroline Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka, and Agnieszka Radwanska, Paszek was a proto-WTA Rising Star - the seventh youngest WTA titlist in history at just 15 years of age. A gutsy competitor, her surging swings produced effortless power. Her first big win came up north against French Open champion and reigning World No.1 Ana Ivanovic at the Rogers Cup.
But a back injury took Paszek off the tour for six months in 2009.
"It wasn't an easy time," she told The Tennis Island in June. "Doctors told me that I might never be able to play professionally again, so I really needed to learn how to be patient.
"But you grow from tough moments like these, and it makes you stronger."
Tumbling from a 2007 peak of No.35, Paszek toiled through the outer reaches of the Top 200 throughout the 2010 season. Things wouldn't come together until that fateful trip to Canada.
"The city is beautiful, the people are super friendly and it reminds me a bit of home!"
"That week in 2010 was a very important week for me. I got some great rhythm and confidence during that week. I made a big jump in the rankings and was able to start the following season inside the Top 100 again."
Paszek reached the semifinals on her return to Québec the following year, months after reaching her first major quarterfinal at Wimbledon, where she beat then-No.7 Francesca Schiavone en route. For a player whose best results have come at the All England Club, the lightening quick carpet courts of the Coupe Banque Nationale are a perfect complement.
"It's different to everything else we usually play on during the year, so it's kind of a cool change."
Now 24, the former prodigy is back in Québec for the first time in four years. After following up that first Wimbledon run with another in 2012 - recovering from match point down to upset Wozniacki in the first round - mononucleosis and other injuries have kept her from a consistent charge up the rankings. Out for eight months to heal a torn adductor muscle, the former No.26 is finally fit and ready to compete with the WTA's upper echelon again.
"When I started back on tour I knew it was going to take some time until I got used to everything again: the travelling, the preparation, the matches, bringing my practice skills into my matches, match rhythm and the daily routine, etc.
"It wasn't easy; all the girls on tour were working hard, playing many matches while I was dealing with my health. But I am at that point now where I feel that my game is starting to come together, and it's a great feeling!"
The comeback first picked up steam on her beloved grass courts. Going 11-4 across the pond, Paszek spent the early part of the summer with her father, who saw her lift that first WTA trophy in Portoroz nearly a decade ago.
"It was really nice having my dad around; we had some nice father-daughter time. Dad used to travel with me full time a couple years back. He knows me and my tennis so well, so obviously that helps a lot."
Another familiar face is childhood coach Larri Passos, who is most known for his work with former ATP No.1 Gustavo Kuerten and was the man in her corner during her initial rise up the rankings. The two have already been hard at work in getting Paszek ready for primetime. Always an intimidating figure from the back of the court, the Austrian showed off an improved all-court game en route to a 6-1, 6-1 demolition of Kozlova on Monday night.
Playing defending champion and No.2 seed Mirjana Lucic-Baroni on Thursday, Paszek feels that, in many ways, her game is better than ever.
"We worked a lot on my forehand and my serve, and also on coming to the net more often. It's working great; all together I feel really comfortable with my game!"
With a talent built to be on the Road To Singapore, Paszek is pleased to be back and winning WTA matches - and enjoying nights at Québecois restaurants like Louis Hébert. But the don't miss the steel beneath her smile: the best is yet to come.
"It feels great, it gives me a lot of motivation, but it's just the beginning."