PARIS (Reuters) - Mayar Sherif became the first Egyptian woman to appear in the main draw of a Grand Slam when she faced former world number one Karolina Pliskova on Tuesday but did not look intimidated and left the French Open sure that she belongs at this level.
The battling 24-year-old took the opening set against the second-seeded Czech before losing 6-7(9) 6-2 6-4 in a contest lasting two hours and 15 minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier.
"I don't think I played my best. I think I could have done so many things much better," said Sherif, whose $69,000 cheque was more than half of her career prize money.
"But you know what? I'm out of here very positive, very excited to work harder, because I saw what the level is and I saw not playing my best how close I was to beating one of the best players in the world. So just keep working harder.
"I still have such a huge margin to improve so that gives me more advantage, gives me more motivation. And I can't wait to get back on the court and practice and work harder, to get back and play at this level."
Sherif did not have the big serve or the power of Pliskova but used the sluggish conditions smartly to her advantage to create lot of trouble for the 2017 semi-finalist.
"I was enjoying it. I loved being out there," she added. "This is really it. I felt like this is where I belong, on the big stadiums with attention, all the people out there. I felt great. I would love to play on one of those courts again.
"I'm sure I will be back to play on them."
Sherif has received support from Liverpool footballer Mo Salah, who has shared the news of his compatriot's success on his Twitter page.
Sherif thanked the Egypt forward and said she would like to ask him a few questions if she gets a chance to meet him.
"He hasn't reached out. I wish he would. That would be very, very nice," she said with a smile.
"But the thing I would ask him is how did he break the barrier of believing or being the first of doing something so big from Egypt as a person that comes from Egypt?
"How did he go through that? And how were the stages to get to the point to where he is now?"
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by Ken Ferris)