Melbourne, VIC, 23 November 2023 | Matt Trollope

Storm Hunter became emotional on Thursday at Melbourne Park as she continued to process her incredible achievement of ending 2023 as the doubles world No.1.

The 29-year-old secured the milestone in a whirlwind, rain-affected 48 hours at the WTA Finals in Cancun, before immediately jetting to Seville to represent Australia at the Billie Jean King Cup Finals.

She only recently returned home to Melbourne, and the enormity of the accomplishment continued to sink in.

“It wasn’t until after (the Billie Jean King Cup) that I kind of got to sit down and reflect and celebrate with the team in Spain, which was amazing. And now being home and having some time to reflect… honestly I’m speechless still, I can’t believe that’s happened,” she said at a media event at KIA Arena.

“But it’s really nice to come home and enjoy and celebrate.

Storm Hunter celebrates her year-end world No.1 ranking in a ceremony at KIA Arena. (Getty Images)

“Five years ago I wasn’t playing at all. I was here at the National Tennis Centre, in the gym doing rehab every single day with my shoulder. I was out for a full year, didn’t think I was going to play tennis again.

“That’s the biggest thing with becoming world No.1, is looking back on my journey, and through those moments of fear and doubt and questioning myself.”

Hunter teared up as she continued.

“Just to be able to sit and be like, wow I got through that, yeah, is really amazing,” she said.

“I couldn’t do that without the people around me. People from Tennis Australia who helped me a lot in those moments, just supported me, and didn’t doubt me at all — they gave me the belief when I didn’t have it myself. Which I’m super grateful for.

“And obviously my parents, my family, and everyone else in my team, I’m just really lucky and feel really incredible and grateful to play this sport – I think it’s a beautiful sport and we’re the luckiest people in the world to be involved in tennis. And it’s a sport for life.

“(I’m) looking forward to January.”

Indeed, several high-performance team members from the NTC attended on Thursday to recognise Hunter’s climb to the summit, as did Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley, Australian teammate Ellen Perez and husband Loughlin Hunter.

She thanked Tiley for scheduling her AO 2023 third-round doubles match on Rod Laver Arena – one of her highlights of the season – as well as Loughlin, who quit his job to travel with and support her on tour full time.

“Thank you everyone for coming out – this is really, really special,” said Hunter, who was overseas for almost nine months in 2023.

“To see all these faces, some that have been part of my journey for a very long time, since I was a 12 or 13-year-old in Perth… I really appreciate it.

“To be honest, it’s always been a dream of mine to be world No.1, but I really didn’t think that it would happen to me.

“I had a really great year and coming into the WTA Finals I was sitting at No.3 in the world, and kind of knew there was a little chance, but I was like, I don’t want to believe it, just in case it doesn’t happen. And how could it happen to me? I’m just Storm.”