NEW YORK - Aryna Sabalenka's bid to bookend her year with a second Grand Slam title fell apart in the U.S. Open final on Saturday but the incoming world number one said she will get both comfort and motivation from her lofty perch atop the world rankings.
Sabalenka will overtake Poland's Iga Swiatek when the new rankings are updated on Monday and the Belarusian admitted her new status will help ease the sting of her U.S. Open final loss to American teenager Coco Gauff.
"Yeah, that's why probably, that's why I'm not super depressed right now," Sabalenka said when asked to reflect on becoming world number one for the first time.
"I'm definitely going for a drink tonight if I'm allowed to say that," a smiling Sabalenka added. "Yes, we are athletes, but sometimes we are drinking, but not much."
The 25-year-old Sabalenka was the second seed in New York and dropped just one set in her march to the final where she took control early and broke Gauff three times en route to grabbing the first set.
But sixth seed Gauff flashed her remarkable speed to extend rallies and managed to force a deciding set where her game reached another level and proved too much for Sabalenka.
"I was overthinking and I was missing quite, like, not easy balls, but the balls I shouldn't be missing," said Sabalenka.
"Today it was more about -- not more about, it was unforced errors was a lot in the second set, and that's where I gave her believe that she can win this match. I got overemotional after the second set."
Despite falling to Gauff in the final, Sabalenka can hold her head high after delivering a remarkable Grand Slam season that included an Australian Open title in January before semi-final appearances at the French Open and Wimbledon.
Sabalenka, who was assured of being world number one after Swiatek's Round of 16 loss last Sunday, had said at every turn during the New York fortnight the she was focused on the U.S. Open and not her ranking. But she has finally opened up.
"For me it's more about end the year as World No. 1, not just like become World No. 1 and then next week you're second," said Sabalenka.
"It's good so that I can say I have been World No. 1, but I really would like to finish the year as World No. 1. That's why I'm, like, still positive, and I'm still motivated."
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)