(Reuters) - Zhang Shuai was aware of the risks involved when she opted to "Fly Alone" two months ago but the 24-year-old Chinese now stands vindicated after winning her maiden WTA Tour title on Saturday.
Li Na, the 2011 French Open champion, broke free from China's state-run training system and went independent after the 2008 Beijing Olympics in a move dubbed "Fly Alone" by the Chinese media.
Peng Shuai, Zheng Jie and Yan Zi also took the plunge, to be followed this year by Zhang who won the Guangzhou Open with a 7-6 (1) 6-1 victory over American qualifier Vania King.
"It is no doubt the most memorable time in my life," Zhang was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency on Sunday. "I hope today's victory will be a new start for me, not a destination.
"I know there will be many troubles ahead of my journey of 'Flying Alone'," Zhang, who won in Guangzhou without dropping a set whole week, said.
"In the past I was an employee, but now I am the boss. I should be responsible for all the team expenses. I can only earn more when I win more.
"I am experiencing a huge shift, not only in tennis, but my whole life. 'Fly Alone' is not easy. I am enjoying happy moments (but) also painful ones."
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Amlan Chakraborty