Published: Saturday September 8, 2012 MYT 8:58:00 AM
Sharapova heads for ice cream after Azarenka loss
NEW YORK: Maria Sharapova refused to lick her wounds after her US Open semi-final loss to Victoria Azarenka, opting instead for the consoling taste of a New York-style vanilla ice cream.
The Russian insists her casual response to failing yet again to make the final of a tournament she last conquered in 2006 is an indication of a new, mature Maria, one learning to take defeat, as well as victory, in her stride.
"I'm looking forward to checking out the ice cream truck that's around the corner from my hotel. Vanilla with rainbow sprinkles. It has been haunting me," said Sharapova.
"I'm telling the driver, like, 'Get out of here. I can't look at you anymore.' So I'll have time for that."
Sharapova - whose Grand Slam title haul remains at four from wins at Wimbledon in 2004, New York two years later, the Australian Open in 2008 and this year's French Open - believes her new, easy-come, easy-go attitude is a legacy of her battles with a career-threatening shoulder injury.
That problem kept her off the tour for nine months from 2008 into 2009 before her return to the court suffered a series of worrying false starts.
"In the last few years, especially after my injury, I have been a lot better about accepting wins and accepting losses," said Sharapova.
"I try to think that if you're level-headed about difficult defeats and then if you get something in your career that's incredible, you take it in a calm way, then the defeats don't seem as difficult.
"After I won the French Open of course I was so happy, but I had this really calm feeling that, you know, like a settlement in my career.
"It wasn't like I wanted to go out and party and tell the whole world that I had won. It was just this feeling within me that I had achieved something that I had worked for.
"The losses, they are difficult and the world knows you lose. That's sport. At the end of the day, that's what makes me better. It motivates me to go back on the court and to practice."
Sharapova was a set and a break ahead on world number one Azarenka before an ugly toll of 42 unforced errors eventually contributed to her 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 downfall in a two-hour, 42-minute semi-final.
Despite the loss, the 25-year-old is still taking positives from 2012.
It has been a year that, for the first time since 2006, has seen her reach at least the fourth round of all four majors.
Her victory at Roland Garros allowed her to become just the sixth woman in the Open era to complete a career Grand Slam.
Her win in Paris also gave her back - albeit briefly - the world number one spot, while her run in New York means she will move to number two from her current three when the new rankings are released on Monday.
"I'll take the results I had this year," she said.
Those results include titles in Stuttgart, Rome and Paris and runner-up spots to Azarenka at the Australian Open and Indian Wells.
She also made the finals in Miami, losing to Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska, as well as the Olympics, where Serena Williams beat her for gold.
"I look back in the beginning of the season and I remember going to Australia early and wasn't really sure I was going to play a warmup tournament. My ankle was still not feeling great," said the Russian.
"So if anyone had told me when I had that uncertainty going into the Australian Open that I would have this type of season - and it's still not over - I would have been pretty happy.
"This is one where I would have loved to get even further, but it's certainly a step better than the last few years I have been here." - AFP