Kim Clijsters expressed her relief after finally breaking her Grand Slam duck with victory at the US Open.
The Belgian, who had nearly 12 months out in the aftermath of surgery on her left wrist in 2004, claimed the title with a 6-3 6-1 win over Mary Pierce.
"I just proved to myself that I can do it and that I'm up there with the best of them," said the 22-year-old.
"All the hard work and everything, it's paid off. That's more satisfying to me. It's hard to believe."
The triumph erases the pain of her four Grand Slam final defeats.
She lost to American Jennifer Capriati in the final of the French Open in 2001 and was then defeated in three Grand Slam finals by compatriot Justine Henin-Hardenne in 2003 and 2004.
Clijsters then suffered a career-threatening wrist injury last year and the long search for a Grand Slam victory looked to have escaped her.
"I got a little frustrated every time I got asked in press conferences about it," she added.
"I had the idea that the media was making it a bigger deal of it than I was.
"I was very motivated and I was working hard to try to do it. So now the press doesn't have to ask that anymore."
Clijsters, who has won six hard-court titles since her return, believes the setbacks over the last three years have made her a stronger player.
"I'm very happy that's all in the past and I'm standing here. It has been an amazing three years," she said.
"There have been a lot of ups and downs, especially last year there was a lot of downs.
"Maybe it wasn't my time yet in those Grand Slams. Losing those Grand Slams definitely motivate you to work harder and to work on a lot of things.
"I think everything that happened, happened for a reason."