Olga Danilovic took the biggest chance of her life and become in Moscow the first millennial to win a WTA title. Famously, she defeated fellow teenager Olga Potapova in the youngest tour-level final since 2005 Tokyo. She has known what competitive spirit means from an early age as the daughter of the former NBA star Predrag, usually referred to as Sasha, considered one of the best European shooting guards during the 1990s who later became in 2016 became the president of the Basketball Federation of Serbia (KSS).
Sports tradition in her family, however, started much earlier. Olga is a lefty like his grandfather Miodrag, a solid defender who played for OFK Belgrade and collected two caps in UEFA competitions. Olga used to train at Partizan club in Belgrade where she and her mum, a sports journalist, grew quite familiar with Novak Djokovic.
Lean and tall, Danilovic learned to use serve and forehand to begin the rally in a favorable position. Impatient as every youngster, she's not used to playing for time and prefers to go for her shots and risk to hit a down the line winner.
More at ease when she can step inside the baseline and attack from the back of the court, she has huge margins for improvements in defense. At the same time, she should gain a more self-assured positioning around the net. Since the summer of 2017, Danilovic has settled in Sant Cugat, where she began to work with a team arranged by Alex Corretja.
Her victory in Moscow was not a coincidence, the former Roland Garros champion said to Marca, the leading Spanish sports paper, to celebrate her title. “She had been sidelined for two months because of an injury, then we did three intense weeks.
On my return from Roland Garros, I told her that I had appreciated a change in her. I believed that in Moscow she could have reached something important”. Danilovic, said Corretja, “is a versatile player who is doing well on all surfaces although we have had a lot of impact on clay lately.
She is left-handed, and it is a plus, and she is very complete in everything. Olga shows a good backhand, she can hit flat or topspin groundstrokes without problems and she is definitely aggressive. She has a great potential and must exploit it, although she must not ask herself too much at the moment”.
The Spaniard taught Danilovic to channel her instinctive, although somewhat controlled, game. She learned the hard way to forget her mistakes and reset quickly her mind, and usually ultra-competitive athletes struggle to do it consistently.
Danilovic, a former Top 10 junior player, drew all the positive lessons from her mistakes and defeats, but those little failures didn't hunt her like a curse. So she went down to the River Cup and come back as a proud winner.
But she had already given glimpses of her talents during the season. In the Fed Cup Europe/Africa Zone Group I event in Tallinn last February, she played the match of her life to beat Anastasija Sevastova 62 64. The young, tall left-handed Serb hit powerfully from the back of the court and never let up throughout the match.
Danilovic, who finished the tournament unbeaten in singles after winning both her previous rubbers in ties against Georgia and Bulgaria, won the first title of the season at ITF level in Santa Margherita di Pula. Forced to play for eleven days after a streak of rain delays, she beat the Italian Federica Di Sarra in an unusual final played on Tuesday morning, when the next event of the series in the same venue was already started.
Competing in the seventh main draw of the season, as our Jovica Ilic documented, she ousted the former Top 30 player Laura Siegemund to win the $60,000 Versmold event, cracking the Top 200 for the first time in her career, becoming the third player born in 2001 to do so after Amanda Anisimova and Anastasia Potapova.
In Moscow, the Serb lost to Paula Badosa Gibert in the final round of qualifying and had booked her flight home before the withdrawals of Irina-Camelia Begu and Petra Martic opened up two lucky loser places in the draw. It came as the classical sliding door that changed her destiny.
Danilovic earned wins over Claro Open Colsanitas champion Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, former World No.15 Kaia Kanepi, dominated Julia Goerges in the maiden Top 10 clash of her career and managed to beat Brisbane International runner-up Aliaksandra Sasnovic to reach the final.
She completed her campaign beating Potapova who had won all their five encounters at junior level, the WTA website reported: once in the U12s, twice in the U14s (including the 2015 Les Petits As final 6-4, 6-4 and twice in U18s.
At 17 years and seven months, she became the youngest WTA champion since Ana Konjuh won Nottingham in 2015, and the first lucky loser to win a WTA title since Andrea Jaeger in 1980. She then tried in vain to qualify for the Us Open and lost at the Tashkent Open to Potapova in a Moscow rematch.
On October 1st, 2018, she entered the top 100 for the first time when she reached a singles ranking of world No. 97. In mid-October, she lost in the first round of qualifying in Linz and Luxembourg. She next participated in WTA 125K series Mumbai Open where, as the No.4 seed she lost to Danka Kovinić in the first round.
That proved her last tournament of the year. Having a 9-7 record against lower-ranked opponents and an even more striking 12-6 mark against higher-ranked players this season, Danilovic knows how to win. She had the time of her life, but it was just the beginning.