Venus Williams had every right to be disappointed.
Playing her first grand slam final since 2009, she lost her way at crucial times to go down in straight sets in Saturday night’s Australian Open decider on Rod Laver Arena.
But this was different. Her conqueror was her younger sister, Serena, whose 6-4 6-4 victory gave her a 23rd grand slam title – more than any other female in the professional era of tennis.
Serena collapsed to the court following Venus’ errant backhand that signalled her victory, but was quickly back on her feet.
Why? Her opponent was storming towards her.
The pair then shared a moment that would stir even the coldest of hearts as they wrapped arms around each other for a big, warm hug.
This was not the token embrace at the net seen in most tennis matches.
This was the hug of a proud-as-punch older sister.
It was gracious and uplifting and the mood carried through a genuinely heart-warming post-match ceremony.
“Serena Williams – that’s my little sister, guys,” said Venus, grinning from ear-to-ear.
"Thank you for all the love"
— #7TENNIS 🎾 (@7tennis) January 28, 2017
“Congratulations, Serena, on number 23. I have been right there with you, some of them I lost right there against you. Yes, that’s weird, but it’s true,” she continued.
“But it’s been an awesome thing. Your win has always been my win, I think that you know that.
“I am enormously proud of you. You mean the world to me.”
Serena, who has beaten Venus in seven of those 23 finals, followed a similar script: “Venus, she is an amazing person. There is no way I would be at 23 without her. There is no way I would be at one without her.
“She is my inspiration, she is the only reason I am standing here today and the only reason that the Williams sisters exist.
“Thank you, Venus, for inspiring me to be the best player that I could be and inspiring me to work hard.”
Working hard is exactly what Serena had to do after a crazy start that featured service breaks in each of the first four games of the opening set.
Serena was not her usual self on serve, mixing aces with double-faults at regular intervals, and she broke her racquet in frustration.
When the first hold finally came, it was Venus playing the better tennis and leading 3-2.
The now seven-time Australian Open winner finally got going, though, and a crunching backhand down the line in the seventh game of the opener was a sign of things to come.
It was the shot that gave her not only a break, but the lead for the very first time, an advantage she would never surrender.
Her seventh ace sealed the first set and Serena has never lost a grand slam singles final after winning the opener.
It set a gargantuan task for Venus, who, trailing 0-40 at 1-1 in the second, could have put the cue in the rack.
Sibling rivalries rarely work like that, though, no matter how friendly they can be, and the 36-year-old flicked the switch, winning five straight points to claim the toughest of holds.
Things remained on serve but yet again, the seventh game of the set would prove crucial, and, yet again, Serena’s backhand did the damage, as she broke.
For Venus’ bid to become the oldest female grand slam champion in the Open era, it would prove fatal. That record is now Serena’s, too.
But, after Serena held serve to win, came the moment of the match.
For anyone involved, no matter what capacity, it is easy to get caught up in the meaning of sport.
Yes, it can be serious business, but it is not life and death, either.
Family is everything. And, on a special night in Melbourne, the Williams sisters showed us that.