LONDON (AFP) - Roger Federer warned his rivals not to write him off yet, after a Wimbledon final defeat that left the Swiss star without a major title for three years.
Federer's bid for a first Grand Slam crown since he last won Wimbledon in 2012 was shattered by Novak Djokovic as the world No. 1 clinched a 7-6 (7-1), 6-7 (10-12), 6-4, 6-3 victory on Sunday.
It was a huge blow for Federer, who had hoped to avenge last year's Wimbledon final loss against Djokovic by winning his favourite tournament for a record eighth time.
Federer has won only one of the last 22 Grand Slam events and, with the world No. 2 turning 34 before the US Open starts in August, there will be many who believe his 10th Wimbledon final will prove to be his last chance to add to his 17 Grand Slam titles.
But the 33-year-old insists his dominant run to the final, which included a sublime semi-final rout of former champion Andy Murray, and a strong first two sets against Djokovic showed there is still plenty of life in him yet.
"I lost against the world No. 1 at the moment. That's the kind of guy you probably can lose against. I'm not going to accept it and say it's normal. It's not," Federer said.
"But I've beaten him a few times. I'm one of the few guys that's gotten a chance.
"I think I was able to show that on the court today, how close it really was. Even though at the end it might look routine, but I don't think that was the case.
"I'm right there. My game is good. I got broken very few times this tournament.
"I played on my terms. Things are all right. I still think I had a great tournament. You can have good tournaments without winning."
Falling just short at the tournament where he has reigned supreme for much of the last two decades was a bitter pill to swallow for Federer, but he conceded his years of success have insulated him against feeling down for long when he loses in a final.
"It's never fun losing. You walk away empty-handed. For me a finalist trophy is not the same. Everybody knows that," Federer said.
"But thankfully I've won here in the past, so it does not feel like I'm chasing anything."
Although he has won Wimbledon for the last two years, Djokovic has yet to inspire that kind of hero worship that Federer enjoyed in the final and the Swiss admitted he was touched by the crowd's support.
"It's great. To have so much crowd support, particularly here at Wimbledon, which is the Holy Grail. It's beautiful," he said.
"I must tell you it means as much to me almost like winning."
Federer plans to jet off for a recuperative holiday with wife Mirka and their four children before focusing on the US Open.
When he gets to New York, Federer knows nine-time major winner Djokovic - the champion in three of the last five Grand Slams - will be the man to beat again.
And he admits the 28-year-old Serb will deserve to ranked in the same bracket as the all-time greats if he can maintain his remarkable consistency over the next few years.
"He's clearly making a big name for himself, having won as many times now as he has in these different slams," Federer said.
"Also his streak at world No. 3, 2, 1, keeping it up, winning a lot of titles time and time again.
"Staying injury-free now for him is crucial. Clearly he's going to be one of the top guys.
"Where, we'll still have to wait and see. I'm sure he still has many more great years ahead of him."