MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Maria Sharapova's dreams of a sixth grand slam title were ended by Serena Williams and her wrecking ball serve in the Australian Open final on Saturday, but the Russian was adamant she would some day have the American's measure.
Though gallant in defeat, her 6-3 7-6(5) loss under the lights of Rod Laver Arena was her 16th in succession to the American great, a decade-long record of pain and frustration.
The Russian bravely saw off two match points with a pair of sizzling winners, but had little say in the third and Williams's 18th ace sealed the match and her sixth title at Melbourne Park with a boom.
Though clinching her 19th grand slam title at the age of 33, evergreen Williams has shown no sign of slowing down and could conceivably haunt Sharapova for years to come.
"If I keep setting up myself chances, absolutely," Sharapova told reporters, when asked if she was getting closer to a breakthrough.
"Look, I actually believe that we attract what we're ready for. Yes, I haven't won against her many times, but if I'm getting to the stage of competing against someone like Serena, I'm doing something well.
"I'm setting up a chance to try to beat her and it hasn't happened. I'm not just going to go home without giving it another chance.
"That's just not who I am and not who I was raised to be. I'm a competitor.
"If I'm getting to the finals of grand slams and setting myself up to play a match against Serena, I mean, I know it sounds -- maybe you're telling me I'm wrong -- but I'm happy to be in that position.
"I love the competition. I love playing against the best, and at the moment she is."
The five-times grand slam champion was nearly dumped out in the second round when forced to fight off match points against countrywoman Alexandra Panova.
She said at the trophy ceremony she was proud of her effort, after being given a "second life".
"It's disappointing now. It's 45 minutes after the match," she told reporters.
"It's always tough to sit and speak in front of the press about a loss. But, look, I'm happy with the way I've handled a few of the matches here, how I've come back strong, how I've set myself up to try to win another major.
"It's not easy to get to the final of a grand slam. It takes a lot of work. It's over the course of two weeks. That's a good achievement. It's a good start to the year. The year is very young at this point."
Editing by Ed Osmond