Taking any loss is painful, but falling short in a Grand Slam final is the most gut-wrenching. While Victoria Azarenka's three-set loss to Naomi Osaka in the US Open final was tough to handle, she's not disappointed and she is not searching for validation.
"I'm not necessarily disappointed," she told press. "It's just painful. It's painful to lose. That is what it is. It was close. I was close. But it didn't go my way. Am I going to think about it too long? Not at all. I said it. I win or I lose, I'm not going to change."
Jumping from world No. 27 to No. 14 in the latest rankings is a reflection of all the Belarusian has accomplished in the past few weeks. She actually arrived in New York ahead of her Western & Southern Open title win at No. 59.
The 31-year-old is simply embracing the ups and downs of the sport.
"I don't think I ever enjoyed tennis to be honest," Azarenka said after defeating Elise Mertens to advance to the US Open semifinal. "To be quite honest I felt like it was a job, something you were meant to do. When you're winning you're enjoying it, when you're losing I was so upset. I couldn't for a couple days function normally because you get so overwhelmed and now it doesn't bother me, nothing bothers me. I'm enjoying it."
She won five matches to reach the "Cincy" final against Osaka, where the Japanese star pulled out citing a hamstring injury. Two weeks later, Azarenka would meet Osaka in the US Open final and she would surge to a 6-1, 2-0 lead. Osaka would flip the script and run away with the trophy.
"I feel that I enjoyed more the way I am on the court," Azarenka said. "Not necessarily focused on the result, but focusing on your progress, being in the moment, embracing the tough moments, tough challenges."
The two-time major champion is already in Rome and her expectations are still set high though her focus will not be on results, but instead continuing to be a student of the game.
"I don't want to ever be satisfied that I know how to do things or I know how to behave or tactical-wise, any of that. I want to continue to be a student," she said. "I'm going to strive for that."
Azarenka is set to take on Venus Williams in her Rome opener. The Belarusian lost to Venus last month in the first round of Lexington, 6-3, 6-2. She's going into the rematch with the best attitude.
"I'm looking forward to play on clay," she said. "It's going to be a quick turnaround, but it's going to be fun."