TENNIS: Simona Halep must have been in unbearable pain, physically and emotionally.
The Romanian had just lost her third straight major final, and her No.1 ranking, after throwing the kitchen sink at Caroline Wozniacki in an epic Australian Open final - like she had done against every opponent over a gruelling fortnight.
Then she had to stand there, stewing on her latest grand slam heartbreak with the world watching on.
"It's just a tennis match in the end. But, yeah, I'm really sad I couldn't win it,” Halep said.
"I was close again, but the gas was over in the end.
"She was better. She was fresher. She had actually more energy in the end.”
Halep. who is coached by Australian Darren Cahill, had already reinforced her mental strength plenty of times at Melbourne Park this week.
She saved match points in two separate matches en-route to the final. Her guts and determination shone through again as she failed to let illness derail her second-set fightback against Wozniacki in Saturday's final.
Then Halep showed her unbelievable toughness again, finding the strength to keep it together on Rod Laver Arena with a a classy runners-up speech in trying of circumstances.
"It's not easy to talk now, but first of all I want to congratulate Caroline,” she said.
"She played amazing. All the tournament. Many congrats also to your team, to your father for what you have done this year since you play professional tennis. It's unbelievable. Congrats and good luck in the future
"It's been a great tournament for me. I started not very well with ankle injury. But I just wanted to give my best every match. Which I did.
"I'm really happy I could play the final again in a grand slam. Of course I'm sad. I couldn't win today. But Caroline was better than me.
"For sure I will fight and I have many years to go. Hopefully I will face another challenge like today.”
Users on social media had no doubt Halep would do just that, with the 26-year-old old earning widespread plaudits and predictions of future grand slam glory.
Halep also earned Wozniacki's sympathy after a final that looked like it could go either way right up until the final point.
"I know that today is a tough day,” Wozniacki said to Halep. "I'm sorry I had to win today but I'm sure we'll have many matches in the future. Incredible match, incredible fight. And again, I'm sorry.”
Halep revealed after the loss that she would require MRIs on both feet.
She also said she would take a "long” break to recover and prepare for another Grand SLam assault.
"I'm sad that I lost the match, I was not the winner. But, you know, life goes on,” she said.
"For sure in the future, if I keep working like this and I keep playing like this, I will be in a good position.”
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