Victoria Azarenka would not necessarily recommend a stint in the cut-throat junior system of cash-strapped Belarus to other aspiring young tennis stars.
But she acknowledges there were valuable lessons to be learnt in dealing with the sort of problems not placed in front of young Australian and American players.
“The first pressure is that if you don’t win some (junior) tournaments, you have absolutely no opportunity to go to any others,” the No.14 seed reminisced on Saturday after cruising into the fourth round of the Australian Open.
“If you’re not the best, you don’t get sponsored at all.”
She recalled one particular day in the midst of a gruelling nine-week junior tour.
“You play at a certain time and, if you skip lunch, you don’t get to eat,” said the 26-year-old.
“I had no money. I didn’t get to eat.
“So that was pressure to survive. That was survival, really.
“So pressure right now is go out there and face a big opponent? Okay.
“But when you’re hungry and you’ve got to go play and you have absolutely nothing, that’s big pressure.”
Those days of struggle must seem a world away for the long-time resident of Monte Carlo, who has earned more than $US25 million ($A35.8 million) in career prize money.
But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing.
Azarenka was diagnosed with depression in late 2014 as her ranking plummeted.
She is now benefiting from a much more-relaxed approach on and off the court.
The Belarusian is still a long way from the giddy heights of 2012, when she claimed the year-end world No.1 ranking.
But Azarenka’s ranking is heading in the right direction again.
And she is much happier.