In her first junior Grand Slam appearance, 14-year-old Marta Kostyuk has held off top seed Rebeka Masarova to claim the title in a tense final at Rod Laver Arena.
The Ukrainian has had an old hand nearby though, with her manager Ivan Ljubicic at times to be found in the stands during her matches.
“He did a lot,” Kostyuk said of the influence the Croatian – and current coach of Roger Federer – has had on her. “He gave me a bit of his experience with big tennis.”
“And I met finally Roger today,” she added. “He congratulated me. And I took a photo with him, so I was very excited.”
The Ukrainian started strongly in the final but was reined in by the more experienced Swiss – who is two years older – but she held her nerve to eventually close out the match 7-5 1-6 6-4 in just under two hours.
“When I start to play the second set, I just started to think that (it was) good that I almost won,” Kostyuk said. “But (after that) I relaxed a bit more.”
Conversely, Masarova is no stranger to the big stage, having already upset former world No.1 Jelena Jankovic as a wildcard at home in Gstaad – her WTA Tour debut – before claiming the junior French Open title last year, but this was not enough on Saturday afternoon as Kostyuk put her enormous potential on full display.
The No.11 seed grabbed the momentum early, breaking Masarova in the second game, and while the Swiss fought back to level, Kostyuk pressed again and looked firmly in control with a 5-2 lead.
Staring down the deficit, the switch seemed to flick for Masarova as she lifted to level at 5-5. While Kostyuk would eventually steal the first set, it all looked stacked in Masarova’s favour as she hit a very fitting ‘purple patch’.
With Kostyk rushing and appearing at times quite unsettled – she hit 14 unforced errors in the second set – it seemed only a matter of time before Masarova crossed the finish line.
But to her immense credit, after both left the court, Kostyuk returned to immediately break Masarova, beginning a run against serve that lasted for six games before the top seed finally held for 4-3 lead after six long deuces.
From there, the young Ukrainian took all before her, clinching victory in an impressive glimpse of what the future might hold.
As for what’s immediately ahead?
“I'm going to change my screen on the phone. I didn't have time these three weeks. And maybe some shopping,” she said.