Every critical point is played out in the mind again and again. For the champion, the instant they swung the contest in their favour.
For the vanquished opponent, where it all went wrong. Again and again.
For Roger Federer, his fourth defeat from his 12th Wimbledon final will hurt more than most. And two points will be swirling through his mind more than most on Sunday night.
Twice the Swiss held Championship points to clinch a record ninth gentlemen’s singles crown and take his Grand Slam tally to 21. But for a third time in a Wimbledon decider he came up short against a relentless Novak Djokovic.
“Yeah, I mean, one shot I guess,” Federer lamented. “You try to see the positives, you try to take it as a good thing, I guess, that you're not down a break or that the match is not over yet.
“If I could have picked it before the match to be at 9-all in the fifth, that wouldn't be a terrible thing. You just always try to push yourself to see things on the better side. But, yeah, it was definitely tough to have those chances.”
Those chances arose when the No.2 seed served for the Championships at 8-7 in the fifth.
Three tie-breaks played, three lost for Federer on this final Sunday. He had now fallen in nine of his past 11 showdowns with his great Serbian rival. It was the third time he had gone down to him in a Wimbledon final after defeats in 2014 and 2015.
“I don't know if losing 2-2-2 feels better than this one,” Federer pondered. “At the end it actually doesn't matter to some extent. You might feel more disappointed, sad, over-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.”
This was the longest gentlemen’s final in Wimbledon history, the first to be decided in a 12-all deciding set tie-break. A 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-6(4), 4-6, 13-12(3) triumph secured Djokovic his fifth at the All England Club and brought him within four majors of Federer’s all-time mark.
The Swiss was attempting to become the oldest man to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open era. Next month, he will turn 38.
He acknowledges time isn’t on his side if he is to indeed add further trophies to his tally. And he accepts the two men nipping at his heels could well pass his mark.
“Well, I mean, it used to be a really, really big deal, you know, I guess when you were close,” Federer said of setting the benchmark. “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, 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.”
Parallels were naturally drawn between this and his five-set, four-hour, 48-minute defeat to Rafael Nadal in the Championships decider in near darkness 11 years ago.
“Like similar to '08 maybe, I will look back at it and think, ‘Well, it's not that bad after all’,” Federer said. “For now it hurts, and it should, like every loss does here at Wimbledon.
“I think it's a mindset. I'm very strong at being able to move on because I don't want to be depressed about actually an amazing tennis match.”
Those moments of solitude will arrive. But the eight-time champion is more experienced than most at taking stock of a harrowing defeat and turning to his next Grand Slam opportunity. At 37, it’s not over yet.
Roger is basically echoing a lot of the points I made in my post a day prior, only with even more positivity than even I would expect him to have.
When he blew those 2 match points I actually wondered whether it would have been less painful if he had lost in straight sets or 4 sets as well.
I still don't really have an answer honestly. Although I guess if he had lost in straights then it would have felt like he didn't put up enough of a fight.
So it's a no win type of situation.