Serena Williams vowed to use the pain of her shock Wimbledon final defeat against Angelique Kerber to fuel her bid for future Grand Slam glory.
Williams was hoping to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 major titles by winning her eighth Wimbledon crown on Saturday.
But instead the 36-year-old produced an error-strewn display in a 6-3, 6-3 loss that ranked as her first Wimbledon final defeat since 2008.
While Serena was frustrated by the surprise setback, she took heart from her run to the final in just the fourth tournament of her comeback following daughter Olympia’s birth in September.
“It was such an amazing tournament for me. I was really happy to get this far,” Williams said.
“It’s obviously disappointing, but I cannot be disappointed. I have so much to look forward to and I am just getting started.
“I entered Wimbledon just wanting to win some matches. It was super encouraging to know that I can compete and do well.”
Williams endured life-saving surgery after Olympia’s difficult delivery and serving as an inspiration to mothers all over the world had been part of the former world one’s decision to return to tennis.
Her presence in the final of a Grand Slam in just her 14th match since that traumatic experience has convinced Serena she can catch Court and even break her record in the future.
“I didn’t know a couple of months ago how I would be able to come back. It was such a long way to see light at the end of the road,” she said.
“So I think these two weeks have really showed me that, okay, I can come out and be a contender to win Grand Slams.
“I’m already deciphering what I need to improve on, what I did wrong, why I did it wrong, that whole madness that goes on in my mind.
“I just feel like I’m taking the steps in the right direction. I took a giant step at Wimbledon. But my journey has just begun.
“This is literally just the beginning. It’s good to just continue that path.”
After failing to become the first mother to win Wimbledon since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1980, Williams admitted she was powerless to prevent the inspired Kerber taking the title.
“To all the mums out there, I was playing for you, and I tried but Angelique played really well, she played out of her mind,” she said.
“She’s an incredible person, a really good friend, so I am really happy for her.”
Serena had been forced to wait to start the final while Novak Djokovic’s delayed men’s semi-final win over Rafael Nadal was completed on Centre Court.
It was two hours later than scheduled before the women’s final got underway, but Williams was adamant the decision to play the men’s match first wasn’t disrespectful and didn’t affect her performance.
“Honestly, I just feel like it was a necessary evil,” she said.
“Not knowing how this match would go, two hours, three hours, I don’t think they could put the men’s semi-final behind the women because they have to come back the next day.
“It didn’t have an impact on me. I’m not going to ever make an excuse.”
Undeterred by her defeat, Williams is already making plans for the US Open in August.
But before that she was ready to head home for some quality time with Olympia and husband Alexis Ohanian — and possibly a bed-time story with a happy ending.
“My priority is my baby now, you know. Just being with her, spending time with her. That’s totally my priorities,” Williams said.
“I will just go home and relax. If I make it home in time, I’ll hang out with Olympia.”
Asked if she would tell Olympia about her day, Serena said: “I think it would be a happy story. I’ll probably change the ending!”