Taking solace in family, Ashleigh Barty put on the bravest of faces after having her Australian Open dream shattered in a semi-final shocker at Melbourne Park.
Barty confessed to having no answers to inspired American Sofia Kenin in a 7-6 (8-6) 7-5 loss to the world No.15 which stunned the sellout crowd at Rod Laver Arena.
"I didn't feel super comfortable. I felt like my first plan wasn't working. I couldn't execute the way that I wanted. I tried to go to B and C," Barty said.
"I try and go out and play the way I want to play. If it doesn't work, I know I have different tools I can go to.
"I tried to go to those tools today. Unfortunately I couldn't quite scrap enough to get over the line."
Playing in extreme heat with temperatures nudging towards 40 degrees in Melbourne, Barty showed no signs of discomfort in conceding only four points in her first five service games.
But she rued missing three break-point chances in the sixth game, then blowing two set points from 6-4 up in the tiebreaker.
Then the top seed paid the ultimate price for squandering a 5-3 lead in the second set and wasting two more set points while trying to level the match up.
"I'm two points away from winning that in straight sets, which is disappointing," she said after falling short in her quest to become the first Australian woman to make an Open final since Wendy Turnbull in 1980.
"Yeah, it's disappointing, but it's been a hell of a summer.
"If you had told me three weeks ago that we would have won a tournament in Adelaide, made the semi-finals of the Australian Open, I'd take that absolutely every single day of the week.
"But I put myself in a position to win the match today and just didn't play the biggest points well enough to be able to win.
"I have to give credit where credit's due. Sofia came out and played aggressively on those points and deserved to win."
The winner of a tour-best 38 hard-court matches last year, Kenin reversed her loss to Barty at last year's French Open to advance to her maiden grand slam final against former world No.1 Garbine Muguruza.
"She is a top-10 player. After this week, she is (officially) a top-10 player. She deserves that respect and she deserves the recognition," said Barty, refusing to blame the intense heat or the pressure of being the great home hope for her flat performance.
"I've been in a grand slam semi-final before. Yes, it's different at home but I enjoyed the experience," Barty said.
"I love being out there. I've loved every minute of playing in Australia over the last month.
"Yeah, I could have had an opportunity to go one more match, but we didn't quite get that today."
Cradling her infant niece Olivia throughout the post-match press conference, the 23-year-old Barty said she needed to put her defeat in perspective.
"My sister just had her about 11, 12 weeks ago. Yeah, this is what life is all about. It's amazing," Barty said.
"Perspective is a beautiful thing. Life is a beautiful thing. She brought a smile to my face as soon as I came off the court.
"I got to give her a hug. It's all good."
Australian Associated Press