Vanquished world No.1 Novak Djokovic was reduced to tears after receiving a rousing two-minute standing ovation following his gut-wrenching French Open final loss to Stan Wawrinka.
Wawrinka admitted he “played the match of my life” to shatter Djokovic’s dream of finally completing his career grand slam in Paris.
Runner-up to Rafael Nadal in 2012 and 2014, Djokovic came up short for a third time but vowed to return with added motivation next year after feeling the love of the French crowd at Court Philippe Chatrier.
Spectators could clearly feel the Serb’s pain as they chanted “Novak Novak Novak” before he received yet another runner-up trophy.
“I respect the appreciation they show me and it was more or less the same situation like last year in closing ceremony,” Djokovic said.
“This is something that definitely gives me even more motivation to come back and keep on trying.
“They are truly respectful fans and I thank them very much, very much for these emotions I felt on the court.
“Obviously was not easy to stand there as a runner-up again, but I lost to a better player who played some courageous tennis and deserved to win.”
The top seed had been unbeaten on clay in 2015 and entered the final on a 27-match winning streak after sweeping to five titles, including an open-era record fifth Australian Open crown in January.
But he offered no excuses in defeat.
“I’m proud of the fight that I put into this match. I tried my best. It wasn’t to be,” Djokovic said.
There was no hiding his disappointment, though, with the loser admitting this defeat cut deep.
“It’s a loss. Of course it hurts, especially because it was in the finals,” Djokovic said.
“I think I have played a great claycourt season, a great Roland Garros.
“I came to the position to really win this trophy. I was set up and was really in the match and trying to play tactically as I intended.
“But he just found the solutions on the court. This is sport. That’s what happens on this level.
“You have to accept the loss.”