Federer makes crushing admission after final defeat
It was an unforgettable Wimbledon final - but Roger Federer wishes it wasn't so.
"I will try to forget," were his first words, when he had a microphone thrust under his chin by former star and BBC presenter Sue Barker for his on-court interview.
Federer said those five words with a hint of a smile and everyone on Centre Court chortled aloud but behind the laughter, the 20-time grand slam champion was crushed he wasn't able to add to his tally of major trophies.
He knows he played a significant part in writing another chapter in tennis folklore today but the pain of wasting an opportunity to win far outweighs any satisfaction Federer got from putting on the show of a lifetime.
Even if the 37-year-old wants to forget what happened in those four hours and 57 minutes on the most iconic stage in the sport - making it the longest men's final in Wimbledon history - he won't be able to.
It's hard to imagine a tougher loss to swallow and Federer simply didn't know if it would have been better to crumble in straight sets rather than embark on a marathon that didn't come with the happy ending he desperately wanted.
Most of all, he was filthy at failing to capitalise on a golden chance to win his ninth Wimbledon crown.
"It's hard to tell. I don't know if losing 6-2 6-2 6-2 feels better than this one. At the end it actually doesn't matter to some extent," Federer said.
"You might feel more disappointed, sad, angry. I don't know what I feel right now. I just feel like it's such an incredible opportunity missed. I can't believe it."
'I'M THE LOSER BOTH TIMES'
Unfortunately for Federer, not believing he was outgunned by Djokovic won't make it any less true.
Federer and Djokovic's epic surpassed the Swiss star's 2008 Wimbledon belter against Rafael Nadal - which the Spaniard won in five sets to claim his maiden title at the All England Club - in terms of time on court. That clash is widely considered one of the greatest matches the sport has ever seen and today's effort drew comparisons to that monumental final 11 years ago.
There may have been similarities between them when it comes to things like staying power and excitement, but for Federer, the only constant between the two matches that matters to him is the result.
"Sure, epic ending, so close, so many moments. Yeah, I mean, sure there's similarities. But you've got to go dig, see what they are," Federer said. "I'm the loser both times, so that's the only similarity I see."
The world's media chuckled at that last line of the English component of Federer's press conference but while he said it with a smile, it shows that, beyond the theatre of what he and Djokovic created, the tennis icon is simply gutted he couldn't leave London with the one thing he wanted most.
STATS 'REALLY DON'T MATTER'
Although upset he'll be heading home with the runner up silverware, Federer isn't going to get too down on himself because he knows he played a heck of a match - even if his level was shaded by Djokovic in the most important moments.
Many pundits - including former stars Tim Henman and Pat Cash - believed Federer played much better for the majority of the final but being on the right side of the stat-sheet doesn't mean he was on the right end of the result.
The Fed Express won 14 more points than Djokovic but that counted for nothing. "It really doesn't matter actually. I know what I did well, how close I was. I don't need to feel that way. I think I can be happy about my performance," Federer said.
Nadal and Djokovic are now closing in on Federer's record for the most grand slam titles. Nadal is two behind on 18, while Djokovic has 16 with his latest win.
But while staying ahead of the competition used to motivate Federer to hunt trophies, that's not the case anymore and you get the sense, despite his age, it will be a while yet before we see the back of the GOAT.
"Well, I mean, used to be a really, really big deal, you know. I guess when you were close. I guess two behind, then eventually you tie, then eventually you break. That was big," Federer said.
"It's been different since, naturally because the chase is in a different place. I take motivation from different places, you know. Not so much from trying to stay ahead because I broke the record, and if somebody else does, well, that's great for them. You can't protect everything anyway.
"I didn't become a tennis player for that. I really didn't. It's about trying to win Wimbledon, trying to have good runs here, playing in front of such an amazing crowd in this Centre Court against players like Novak and so forth. That's what I play for."