Little more than 18 months ago, Gabriella Taylor feared she was on her deathbed.
Medical experts were stumped for months on end at her mysterious illness and at one stage authorities – including police – had suspected she had been poisoned in the midst of the 2016 junior Wimbledon championships.
So when the unseeded Brit was spotted every day this week full of smiles, she knew there was something in the air working in her favour.
“It’s been my first time in Tasmania and I really love it,” Taylor said after her 6-3, 6-4 win in the Launceston International final on Sunday.
But the smile dissipates when she recalls the multiple organ failure that was the start of her health woes.
So serious was the condition that Taylor spent four days in intensive care first.
“That year I struggled from glandular fever, so I was out for a few months,” she said.
“But I feel really lucky that I can be back out competing and managing to get some wins under my belt – it’s just been a bonus.”
The emerging 19-year-old has now won her third ATP challenger title on three continents in under 12 months – and Launceston was her second in six weeks. It’s a testimony of her mental strength.
“I’m really pleased with my performance this week and I have been focusing on what has come my way,” Taylor said. “It has really managed me get through and win this tournament.
“I just try not to think about winning or losing.”
Taylor stung out to a 5-0 lead and two breaks over American Asia Muhammed, whose series of early unforced errors proved costly.
But the fourth-seeded hot favourite managed to win the next three games.
Taylor was ready for Muhammad’s comeback when the sting went out of the final.
“I was on a roll in the first set and dominating most of the games,” Taylor said.
“But it’s not easy being 5-0 and for your opponent, she has nothing to lose any more.
“She started playing better tennis from that point and it was just whether or not I can stay in the game and just focus on point by point.”
Muhammad lost the first set, but broke in the second game to lead 2-0. But Taylor’s aggressive passing shots and attack on the net turn the lead around five games later.