He won more points and more games. He won at least six games in every set.
Yet somehow Roger Federer didn’t win the Wimbledon final, denied by Novak Djokovic in the longest final in Wimbledon history.
Djokovic produced a stunning Houdini act after fighting off two match points to capture a fifth Wimbledon singles crown with a titanic, nerve-shredding five-set triumph.
In a captivating, history-making four-hour, 57-minute final of wildly fluctuating fortunes, Djokovic denied Federer 7-6 (7-5) 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 12-12 (7-3) to retain the title he won last year and add to the trophies he also landed at the All England Club in 2011, 2014 and 2015.
Federer served for the match at 8-7 in the fifth and was up 40-15, but squandered the two championship points and left Djokovic back in.
Fans couldn’t believe what they were seeing, labelling the loss a ‘choke’.
First time in 21 years supporting @rogerfederer that I feel let down. He was the better player, he should have won. He threw it away.— Geraldine Fahy (@DrFahy_Anthro) July 14, 2019
I can’t believe Federer choked this away. Had match point at 40-15 and then choked another tiebreak. One of the all time great matches, and choke jobs of Federer’s career. #Wimbledon— Colton Ambrosio (@coltonambrosio) July 14, 2019
Federer threw that championship away. Absolutely bottled it😩😩😩😩😢😢😢😢— Anit Bhattacharjee (@anit_ab10) July 14, 2019
Federer threw it away 😭😭 40-15 up and lost the serve.— Green Dragon🐲 (@brightutd) July 14, 2019
Federer biggest choke job in 71 years. WOW! 2 Match Points Away and losing hasn't been done in that long of a period of time.— Yankee Man (@MyBoyJeter) July 14, 2019
I love Federer over everyone, but he is one of the biggest choke artists I've ever witnessed in all sports. He could have won so many more tournaments, but he loses his cool. Djoker is like Ronaldo, never bothered. Federer is Messi, his mental goes boom sometimes.— Tobi (@tobe1418) July 14, 2019
A crying shame that the best player lost due to the tiebreak rules, but at the end of the day you’ve got to win the points when it matters, and Federer threw them away instead #WimbledonFinal— Joel McAlary (@joel_mcalary925) July 14, 2019
Federer threw it away.— Chidiogo Emmanuel (@Empexy) July 14, 2019
These things happen.
If you didn’t realize Djokovic would win this after saving those 2 championship points on Federer’s serve at 8-7, you’re new to this. That was the end. Such a choke. Unreal and almost predictable. Career defining stuff.— McshowTennis (@mcshow_blog) July 14, 2019
Federer stoic in defeat
Federer looked set to defy the doubters and Father Time to become the oldest grand slam champion in half a century of professional tennis.
Instead, for the third time in his record-setting grand slam career, Federer walked off vanquished at the hands of Djokovic after holding match points.
The 20-times major winner suffered the same shattering fate against Djokovic in the 2010 and 2011 US Open semi-finals.
But the stoic Swiss was philosophical in what must have been another gut-wrenching defeat.
"Oh well, I hope I give some other people a chance to believe at 37 it's not over yet," Federer said.
"Take it on your chin, you move on. I'll try to forget ... No, it's all good. I couldn't give anymore. I gave it my all and I still feel all right. I still stand and so it's good and I wish the same for all the other 37-year-olds."
Despite the "incredible opportunity lost", Federer suspected his four children in the courtside box would probably be more deflated following the four-hour, 57-minute heartbreaker.
"They won't be excited with a plate. They'd rather take that golden thing," the 12-times finalist said after collecting a fourth runners-up trophy.
"But it's nice to see them. We had a great week here and I love them and it's back to (being) Dad and husband. It's all good."
Federer won more points and more games, conjured more break points and delivered almost three times as many aces as the Serb, who admitted to being on the back foot all match .
"It really doesn't matter actually," Federer said.
"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.
"It was a great match with wonderful points played. It had everything. Novak played also amazing today. So I hope it resonates in a big way."
Three weeks shy of his 38th birthday, Federer is now just four slams clear of 32-year-old Djokovic on all-time grand slam leaderboard, with Rafael Nadal, with 18, only two behind.
But blissfully content off the court and still competitive on it, Federer insisted he was no longer fussed about holding the grand slam record.
"I mean, (it) used to be a really, really big deal," he said.
"When you were close, I guess two behind, then eventually you tie, then eventually you break, that was big.
"It's been different since, naturally because the chase is in a different place. I take motivation from different places, not so much from trying to stay ahead because I broke the record.
"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."