New Delhi: Serena Williams lost the Australian Open final to the seventh-ranked Angelique Kerber, only to earn plaudits for her generosity.
The defending champion and world no. 1 started as the overwhelming favourite to win the title and match Steffi Graf's Open Era record of 22 Grand Slam titles, but the American found a perfect opponent in Kerber.
After losing the match 6-4 3-6 6-4 in just over two hours, Serena said "I was actually really happy for her. She played so well today. She had an attitude that I think a lot of people can learn from, just to always stay positive and to never give up."
Serena, 34, failed to match Graf's record, but returned a contented champion. It was a marked difference from the 21-time major winner, who was once booed by fans at the 2009 US Open after a heated exchange with a line umpire for which she was given a suspended ban and ordered to pay half of a $175,000 fine.
"If I couldn`t win, I`m happy she did," a smiling Serena said.
Her gesture was received with rapturous applause from the Rod Laver Arena crowd. And soon, men's defending champion and finalist Novak Djokovic took to Twitter to hail the "sportsmanship".
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 30, 2016
Manchester United and Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger also joined the online appreciation:
— Basti Schweinsteiger (@BSchweinsteiger) January 30, 2016
American legend Billie Jean King, however, dubbed her compatriot as a true champion:
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) January 30, 2016