The one-time wunderkind has returned to the WTA Tour in a big way at the French Open - coming out of qualifying to reach the second week.
Victoria Chiesa

PARIS, France - Five years ago in Paris, Petra Martic made the tennis world stand up and take notice.

The then-21-year-old had her best career result at a Grand Slam as she reached the fourth round at Roland Garros and upset a pair of seeds, including World No.8 Marion Bartoli for her first career top 10 victory. As a result, she peaked at a career-high ranking of World No.42 in June of that year.

After five long years of injuries and a winding road back, the Croatian is back in the spotlight in Paris.

Having come into the tournament ranked World No.290 after 10 months off the WTA Tour due to a back injury, Martic scored victories over No.12 seed Madison Keys and No.17 seed Anastasija Sevastova over the course of the first three rounds - her first two wins over top 20 players since that breakout season - to return to the second week of a Grand Slam. 

Martic used a special ranking - which a player can apply for per WTA rules if she has been out of competition a minimum of six months and a maximum of two years - of No.155 to ensure herself entry into the qualifying tournament. 

"When I got injured, my only hope was, you know, that I would get a second chance and so I can play some of my best tennis again. I felt like I was ready for it," Martic said after the 6-1, 6-1 win over Sevastova that secured her place in the fourth round of the French Open on Sunday.

"You know, last year, before I got injured, I felt that my tennis was there. Mentally, I got much better, and I thought, okay, I think my time is coming, and then I got injured.

"I was like, 'Jesus, please, you know, I need one more chance.' And here I am."

Petra Martic (Getty)

An all-court player with a strong serve, Martic has shown glimpses of the tennis that made her one to watch all those years ago during this fortnight.

Her road to the last 16 began last week, as the former top 50 player kicked off her qualifying campaign with a 6-1, 6-3 win over American Irina Falconi, in a match of two players who had been beleagured by injuries over the past year. Next came a victory over the No.22 qualifying seed, young German Tamara Korpatsch, with the loss of just four games. 

Her French Open was nearly ended before it really began, though, as she toiled for over three hours with No.8 seed Maryna Zanevska in the final round of qualifying. 

In the decisive qualifying round, Martic edged the Belgian in three tiebreaks, 7-6(3), 6-7(2), 7-6(5) to reach the main draw of a major for the first time in two years. Once there, her run continued, as she ousted Kateryna Bondarenko in straight sets in the first round for her first main draw victory at a major since beating then-No.77 Karolina Pliskova in the second round of Wimbledon in 2013.

Petra Martic (Getty)
Petra Martic hits a forehand. (Getty)

With Pliskova now in with a chance to leave Paris as the world's No.1 women's tennis player -- how times have changed.

But two weeks into her campaign in Paris, as Martic says, here she is - but perhaps with something even more valuable to her name than well-struck forehands and top 20 victories: perspective. 

"My first tournament in Italy [on the ITF Circuit in April], I mean, the courts were incredibly bad, so many bad bounces, umpires. You don't have ball boys, nothing. It was like, Oh, my God, I have to really start all over again," Martic said. "At the same time, I was so excited to be out there. To me, it really felt like a Grand Slam the first time I went to court to play an official match after this injury. It was a $25,000 [event] quallies. I was as excited as it gets."

She added: "The first time I was here in fourth round was a huge deal for me. I was so young and I had no idea what is happening. I'm suddenly in the fourth round and everybody is talking about me. It was so much tension, and I don't think I was ready to deal with it.

"I think I'm in a much better position now because I'm just hungry for more actually. I'm not satisfied with this. It's a great result, but I'm going out there tomorrow wanting to win again."

Martic will look to continue her Parisian Cinderella story against No.5 seed Elina Svitolina on Monday, with a place in the last eight on the line - though, the Croatian wasn't looking too far ahead in her post-match press conference on Sunday. 

She had one piece of important business to attend to first.

"It's tradition with my team is to have a glass of wine after every victory. So that's for sure happening once I'm done with you here," she divulged. "But other than that, it's just focus on the next match."

What kind?

"Red, always red."