French Open 2023: Day defeated 20th-ranked compatriot Madison Keys 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in the second round to earn her first career top-20 win.
American Kayla Day said on Thursday that it was "really hard" to believe she could have a successful tennis career after years of injury problems.
But the world number 138, who enjoyed a run to the 2017 Indian Wells third round as a 17-year-old, won five straight matches at the French Open, came through qualifying and is now in the last 32.
Day defeated 20th-ranked compatriot Madison Keys 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in the second round to earn her first career top-20 win.
“It was really hard, because all my injuries … I’d be out for three, four months, and I’d never secured a ranking, so it was very hard for me to come back,” Day said.
“Every time I tried to come back, it seemed like something else would happen. When I started to feel better, it was in 2020 during covid, and they canceled all the tournaments and my ranking dropped like 600 at that time.
“It was really hard trying to even try to play in a tournament… a lot of bad luck and bad timing.”
Day spent most of the past few years either on the sidelines or playing in low-key ITF events, but he never considered hanging up his racket.
“I don’t think there was a moment that I was really, like, I don’t want to do this. I love tennis, so I’ve always wanted to do this,” she said.
“I’ve definitely learned that it’s a lot harder than I thought, to come back the way I did.
“A lot of people, I think, counted me out or didn’t believe in me anymore or whatever, and I just worked hard and believed in myself.”
He counts fellow left-hander Martina Navratilova, who competed for Czechoslovakia and the United States, and Rafael Nadal, who has a pet dog named after him, among his idols.
“I named Rafa when I was nine, and only because I was a left-winger, and obviously he’s one of the best players to ever play the game.”
The Slovak will now be eyeing a place in week two ahead of her last 32 showdown with world number 100 Anna Karolina Smidlova on Saturday.