Twelve months ago, Lauren Davis played a 2016 ASB Classic qualifier on the back courts of Auckland’s tennis arena.
On Saturday, the 23-year-old lifted the trophy as Classic champion.
The unseeded American was crowned the City of Sails’ new champion after a cruisy straight-sets victory over Croatian eighth-seed Ana Konjuh 6-3, 6-1.
The final was one-way traffic from the get-go in calm conditions, as the ultra-consistent Davis wore down her teenage opponent and capitalised on her 47 unforced errors.
Konjuh was particularly susceptible facing serve, winning just 31 per cent of all return points, while Davis dominated her opponent’s second serve, winning 64 per cent of points.
And while the Croatian showed glimpses of her mercurial talent and thumping forehand, those moments were too frequently punctured by inexplicable mistakes.
The 19-year-old was broken twice in the first and three times in the second set as Davis ultimately coasted to her maiden WTA title.
“I’ve been looking forward to this moment for years, putting a lot of hard work in, a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” the world No.61 said.
“I felt like I had nothing to lose, so I just thought I’d leave it all out on the court.”
Both held their nerve in the opening games before cracks started to show for Konjuh, playing into the scrapping Davis’ hands with service and forecourt errors.
Konjuh was broken to give Davis a 4-2 lead and, despite breaking back in the following game, she was broken again to give Davis the first set 6-3.
Broken again in the first set of the second, Konjuh was on the ropes and visibly distressed by her carelessness, hanging her head after each lost point.
Davis held after a protracted deuce to go 2-0 up, before capitalising on more Konjuh errors to break twice more and win the final 6-3, 6-1.
Despite the dominant scoreline, Davis was adamant the match was no walkover.
“Ana is an incredible player, she hits the ball extremely hard and penetrates through the court with an amazing serve,” Davis said.
“I knew I had what it took, it was just a matter of execution and staying relaxed.”
Standing at just 157cm, the Florida-based Davis isn’t blessed with the physical presence of a Williams sister but covers the court with impressive speed and rarely errs.
Venus, Serena and Caroline Wozniacki quickly came and went in Auckland but Davis stuck it out, defeating three seeded players on route to the title.
She’ll now head on to Melbourne and the Australian Open, looking to cause more surprises on the highest stage.
“I think that’s how I am in general, I’ve been blessed with that type of personality,” Davis said.
“You have to, being my size – I work hard and run for every ball.”