LONDON (AP) Roger Federer already had saved one match point in the Wimbledon final against Novak Djokovic, and had won four games in a row in the fourth set.
As both players sat on the sideline during the changeover before Federer was going to serve to try to force a fifth set, most of the nearly 15,000 spectators began chanting ''Ro-ger! Ro-ger! Ro-ger!''
Federer did extend the match. He could not manage to win it. Falling just short of what would have been his record eighth championship at the All England Club, Federer lost to Djokovic 6-7 (7), 6-4, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-4 Sunday in a back-and-forth tussle that lasted nearly four hours.
''In a match like the one today, where I needed support, they were there. I could sense that they really wished me well and hoped for me to either get back in the match or hopefully lift another trophy here at Wimbledon,'' Federer said about the crowd.
''I already have seven. It's not like I need another one,'' he added. ''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.''
A month shy of his 33rd birthday, and a father to two sets of twins, Federer would have been the oldest man in more than a half-century to win Wimbledon. He also would have been the first since 1948 to save a match point in the tournament's final and go on to take the title.
Federer was playing in his first Grand Slam final since 2012, when he beat Andy Murray in the final at the All England Club to earn his record 17th Grand Slam trophy overall.
Last year, Federer lost in the second round at the grass-court major, his earliest exit at Wimbledon since 2002, and at any Grand Slam tournament since 2013. He was struggling with a bothersome back and experimenting with a larger racket, and there were whispers about whether the Swiss star could ever challenge for another championship at one of tennis' four most important tournaments.
But for most of this fortnight, Federer played superbly, serve-and-volleying more than usual and getting broken only once in 89 service games heading into Sunday.
''It's the best Roger I've seen in years,'' said Djokovic's coach, Boris Becker, a three-time Wimbledon champion who had a playing rivalry against Federer's coach, Stefan Edberg.
But Djokovic might just be the game's best returner nowadays, and he broke Federer four times, including in the match's last game.
''I respect him and his achievements, his career. He's a great champion on and off the court,'' Djokovic said. ''To be able to win against him, as one of my greatest rivals, on this occasion, on a court that he's been dominating for so many years, makes it a very special trophy for me.''
Djokovic, who is 27, spoke about how he hopes this victory will spur him to add to his seven major titles.
Federer was asked whether this might have been his last hurrah.
''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,'' Federer said. ''I'm very happy to see that with feeling (healthy), I can produce a performance like I did the last two weeks. That clearly makes me believe that this was just a steppingstone to many more great things in the future.''
Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich