BOGOTA, Colombia - If the WTA ranking system favors the consistent over the combustible, that only makes Claro Open Colsanitas champion Anna Karolina Schmiedlova's career odyssey all the more confusing.
"I've really had some ups and downs in tennis," she told me on Sunday after ousting Lara Arruabarrena in straight sets. "Some good weeks, some bad weeks. I had moments when I was really sad and I just wanted to leave court, because I felt really bad with my play, so I’m happy that this week happened. And I’m really happy that it happened here in Bogota."
With her clean ground game and impeccable speed around the court, the Slovak youngster had all the makings of a Top 100 mainstay when she debuted at World No.97 in the summer of 2013. Two years later, she had won two titles and reached a pair of Premier 5 quarterfinals - earning a win over Caroline Wozniacki at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open en route to her career-high ranking.
If her 2015 surge came as a surprise, her 2016 decline was a stunner; she won just five WTA main draw matches all season, just one of those wins coming between January and July.
"I've went through it plenty of times and I still can’t say what went wrong. I don't think it was one thing, I think it was more things in a row. I lost my confidence. Maybe I wasn’t really ready to be No.26, I couldn’t handle the pressure."
Family and friends got her through the toughest moments, and Schmiedlova credits the unwavering support of her superfans, who never gave up on the 23-year-old.
"I still have a lot of fans and a lot of friends that supported me. They were with me in the good times, the bad times, and not just in tennis, but in life. That makes me happy. A lot of people write me when I’m sad, not just when I’m playing, and I really, really appreciate it."
By January 2017, she was down to World No.273, her lowest ranking in five years. Relegated to the ITF Pro Circuit, she rehired longtime coach Milan Martinec after splitting in 2016 and began racking up wins, but success on the WTA level remained elusive.
"It was really tough to get back where I am now. It was incredibly difficult for me, and I went step by step. In Monterrey just last week, I lost from three match points in the first round, so I was kind of sad, and I didn’t believe that something like this could even happen."
Schmiedlova was a ray of sunshine during the rainy week in Bogota, knocking out former champion Irina Falconi in the first round in what was her first WTA main draw win since the 2016 BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open, and didn't drop a set through her remaining four matches.
"I can’t even say how I feel right now. It was really a great week for me. If you said like a week ago that I was going to win a title again, I wouldn’t have believed you, and it was a really great week.
"The weather could be a little bit better, but what can we do about it? I hadn’t won a WTA match for a long time, so that I won even one match here in Bogota, I was really happy. And this week, for me, I won all tournament, it’s amazing."
Back in the Top 100, the Slovak next heads to Fed Cup for a World Group Play-Off tie against Belarus with renewed confidence and, and is eager to reassess her clay court schedule now that a main draw spot at Roland Garros is in sight.
"Before this tournament, I expected that I would play some ITFs, smaller tournaments again. I wasn’t happy about it, but I didn’t have a lot of chances with my ranking, and playing Fed Cup and everything. I next planned to play a 25K, but now when I won this tournament and have a better ranking, I really have to sit down with my coach and try to plan it one more time. I'm thinking about playing Madrid, but I don’t know about that, maybe qualies there. But I definitely want to play more WTA tournaments now!"