Garbine Muguruza struggled to hold back the tears as she delivered a heartbreaking runner-up speech at the Australian Open on Saturday night.
She may have climbed a mountain but two weeks of grand slam tennis took its toll on the Spaniard.
Muguruza couldn't match the physicality and fearlessness of young American Sofia Kenin, losing their Saturday night decider on Rod Laver Arena 4-6 6-2 6-2.
She looked visibly uncomfortable on the stage as Kenin delivered her victory speech, and was on the verge of breaking down during her own speech.
“I’m going to keep it short because I’m going to get very emotional,” Muguruza said.
“Congratulations to Sofia, you played an incredible match, you deserve this trophy.”
Muguruza was forced to take a number of deep breaths and pauses as she composed herself.
“I have to start thanking my team,” she continued.
“They’re over there suffering with me today.
“I have to say it has been incredible playing out here in this environment. The crowd makes it special. We play for you guys, that’s the show. Thank you for coming.”
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 1, 2020
Fans were full of praise for Muguruza’s classy and brave speech.
I always think it is awkward having the loser of the championship give a speech on court, but damn Muguruza just did an incredible job. So gracious to her team. Can tell she is back for good
— joe (@Joe_Muff_) February 1, 2020
Very nice speech from Muguruza, I know she wants to cry, but holds it together and said some nice words #AusOpen
— Corina (@Corinas_racket) February 1, 2020
That was a great runners-up speech from Muguruza.
— Nikhila (@kokudum) February 1, 2020
Great speech from Muguruza, all class, all heart. https://t.co/a1e0abVTbD
— TennisNow (@Tennis_Now) February 1, 2020
I feel so bad for Muguruza. You know she really wanted that trophy. She kept eyeing it during the trophy ceremony. She held back her tears during her speech as well. Great job Sofia!
— Richard Erguiza (@itspinoyrichard) February 1, 2020
Rooted for Garbine Muguruza today I totally understood her pain it was obvious during the speech. I hope she comes back with a bang at @rolandgarros But also Congratulations!! to @SofiaKenin a really amazing win. Good Job 👏🏽
— Khushali (@khushalidb) February 1, 2020
Muguruza takes positives from brilliant run
The two-time grand slam champion admitted in her post-match press conference that she was struggling to keep it together.
“I was holding it in a lot out there too,” she said.
“They make you speak in a moment where you just lose a tough match. I tried to have a good perspective and not be too dramatic.”
Muguruza trekked to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in the off-season but she hadn't put together seven grand slam matches since 2017 when she won the Wimbledon title and said she found the going tough.
In a fairly lean two-and-a-half years since, the former world No.1's ranking had dropped to 32 while she'd only made it past the fourth round at a grand slam once.
"I did feel I lacked a little bit of energy after so many matches and physically it was a tough battle out there," Muguruza said.
"My body was feeling the two weeks, that's for sure."
"Also this match was a lot of rallies, a lot of running - at some point I was feeling my body."
With the French Open and Wimbledon crowns already in her keeping, the 26-year-old was looking to add the Australian Open to her collection.
But it was a case of missed chances for Muguruza, converting just two of 12 break-point opportunities.
The Spaniard had treatment on her back after dropping the second set but she said it wasn't a new injury.
Nonetheless, her serve went off the boil in the decider.
At 2-2 Muguruza had three break points but Kenin blasted four winners to take the game and crush the Spaniard's spirit.
She finished with eight double-faults including one on match point to hand world No.15 American the title.
"It was a very important moment of the match," Muguruza said of the fifth game in the third.
"I think she found very, very good shots during the match, especially in the important moments she came out with winners.
"I'm not very happy about my performance - I think I had to play better because she came up with a great level."
While disappointed with the defeat, Muguruza felt positive about the year ahead.
Unseeded at a slam for the first time in almost six years, she will halve her ranking and rocket to 16 next week on the back of her impressive run.
"I think I got to keep working physically as these events are really long, so you got to be strong," she said.
"I think it's a great start of the year, for sure. It's going to give me a lot of information about where I am right now."