Marina Erakovic has told the international tennis world her breakthrough title will mean a lot to her adopted country New Zealand.
The Croatian-born 24-year-old collected her first fully-fledged WTA singles title in Memphis yesterday, beating German opponent Sabine Lisicki in the final of the US National Indoor Championships.
The victory represents New Zealand's first title on the top women's tour since Belinda's Cordwell's success in Singapore in 1989.
"I think it means quite a bit for New Zealand," Erakovic told the official WTA website.
"We're a small place, we've got about four million people, and tennis isn't the most popular sport.
"But whenever I'm somewhere else in the world and someone asks me where I'm from, and I say New Zealand, they always say they love New Zealand. And there are always a lot of Kiwis supporting me around the world. So this is great.
"I've just talked to home - everyone's super excited. My dad was watching online - I had to tell him congratulations too, because he did so much when I was a kid. This really was teamwork."
Erakovic earned $48,000 for her win and when the latest rankings are released tomorrow, she will be back in the 60s after playing at Memphis as the world No 71.
But it's the title that means more than anything to her, after her first two finals appearances resulted in losses.
She is no stranger to success, winning seven WTA doubles titles since turning pro in 2006 and has 12 singles and 6 doubles titles in the smaller ITF events.
But now she is in esteemed company and she feels it is reward for a lot of hard work and perseverance.
"If paying your dues is putting all the hours in on the tennis court, getting injured and going back at it again, then I've definitely paid my dues," she said.
"I just like playing tennis. It's not always fun and it's not always great, and it doesn't always work out the way you want it to, but when you win tight matches or win titles, it's all worthwhile."
- © Fairfax NZ News