When you are – arguably – the greatest player ever to pick up a racket and you have just lost one of the best finals Centre Court has ever seen, you do things slightly differently.
So it was that Roger Federer did not head for the locker room to kick his racket bag to Timbuktu, he did not dive into the nearest doorway and hide his head under a towel to howl. No, the mighty Rodge walked straight into the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and had a bit of royal TLC. And, no, this was not a first; he had met them before.
“I did see them afterwards,” Federer said. “I wasn't in a great state. I was unbelievably sad at that moment just when I left the court, so it was a difficult moment for, I think, the three of us. But they were very sweet to comfort me and wish me well, that they enjoyed the match and all these things. We met previously, so that helped, I think.
“Clearly it makes me very happy to see them being supportive of my game and supportive of tennis. Overall, it's really nice seeing them there at a Wimbledon finals. Also at the quarters I think they were there as well. I think it's wonderful.”
Now the father of four children, Federer knows that there are more things in life than tennis matches but, even so, losing 6-7(7), 6-4, 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-4 in a smidgeon under four hours to Novak Djokovic still hurt. It hurt lots. He may have said all the right things during the trophy presentation ceremony, but the look on his face before he was called to receive his silver salver and afterwards, when he waited for Djokovic to finish his lap of honour, told a different story.
He had fought with everything he had; he had saved a championship point and forced the match into a fifth set, he had smacked 75 winners and committed only 29 unforced errors and he had served with laser-guided precision to come up with 29 aces. And still he had lost. No wonder it hurt.
“I kept believing and kept and kept trying to play offensive tennis,” he said. “I'm happy it paid off in some instances. As you can imagine, I'm very disappointed not being rewarded with victory. But it was close, you know. Novak deserved it at the end clearly, but it was extremely close.”
How many times have we all heard players claim that their loss or victory came down to a point or two here or there. But in this particular case – although neither man actually said so – the result rested on a knife edge for pretty much every minute of the three hour 56 minute epic. One double fault, one groundstroke sent a millimetre wide was all it would take to separate the two serial champions. The rub of the green eventually went to Djokovic (Fed hit a forehand long to offer up a championship point and then dumped a backhand in the net to lose the match – almost four hours of hard graft and it came down to that) and Federer was crushed.
Looking around the packed court, he watched Djokovic climb into the players’ box and celebrate with his team. This was hard to take. And then his eyes fell on his team – his friends, his helpers and his wife and two daughters. Suddenly life was not so bad after all.
“It's even more memorable when I see my kids there with my wife and everything,” he said. “That's what touched me the most, to be quite honest. The disappointment of the match itself went pretty quickly. I was sad for a few minutes, but so happy to see family and a lot of nice ovations from the crowd. You know, that lifted me up and made me feel better, no doubt. So I got over it fairly quickly. But clearly I was very sad walking off the court not with the winner's trophy.”
Inevitably for a bloke who is staring at his 33rd birthday, the unspoken question is “will you be back?” The world’s media tiptoed around it but when someone bravely threw out the idea that, maybe, perhaps, sort of, this might have been his last chance to win a grand slam title, Fed was perfectly at ease with the concept.
“You could have asked me exactly that question in 2003,” he said, harking back to his first Wimbledon title and the first of his 17 major trophies in all. “You don't know. Totally the unknown. That's the disappointment of an Olympic result, of a World Cup result, Wimbledon result, whatever it is. You've just got to wait and see.
“There is no guarantee that you're going to be ever there again or not. Or maybe there's much more to come. It's really impossible to answer that question.
“I'm very happy to see that with feeling normal I can produce a performance like I did the last two weeks. That clearly makes me believe that this was just a stepping stone to many more great things in the future.”
The positives to take from Sunday’s match are many: Federer is fit, he is playing almost to the peak of his powers and he is still charging towards the business end of major championships. And if he loses, he had friends in high places to offer him a bit of tea and sympathy. Life really ain’t so bad after all.
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."View all