By Caroline Cheese
BBC Sport at Wimbledon
Federer lost in a Wimbledon final for the first time
Roger Federer described defeat by Rafael Nadal in a classic Wimbledon final as his "hardest loss by far".
The world number one fought back from two sets down but saw his hopes of a sixth straight title extinguished as he lost a dramatic final set 9-7.
"I'm happy we lived up to expectations, but right now it's not much of a good feeling," said the 26-year-old.
"It's not a whole lot of fun, but that's the way it is. I can only congratulate Rafa for a great effort."
Interview: Roger Federer
Federer, who was crushed by Nadal in last month's French Open final, looked poised for another humiliating defeat when he dropped the first two sets.
But after a rain delay, the five-time champion returned in blistering form, coming back from 5-2 down and saving two match points in a gripping fourth-set tie-break to take the final into a decider.
Federer admitted that the manner in which he had come back from the dead had given him hope.
"I was seeing he was getting very nervous in that fourth-set tie-break. I think he should have never lost the breaker," he said.
I thought the momentum would be enough in the fifth set
"But he was really nervous. He didn't make the returns he usually does. He couldn't play aggressive. I played some OK shots, and it was enough to come back.
"I thought he was feeling it a lot, maybe the first time in his life."
Federer saved his second match point by ripping a dazzling backhand down the line, a shot which followed an astonishing forehand winner from Nadal.
"It was a great feeling. It was awesome to push it to a fifth set," said Federer.
"I was hoping, with the momentum going into the fifth set, that it was going to be enough from my end that I would play a little bit better.
"But I couldn't play my best when I had to. Towards the end, with the light, it was tough. But it's not an excuse. Like I said, Rafa served well and played well and deserved to win in the end."
Nadal broke at 7-7 with the light fast fading before serving out victory in a match described by John McEnroe as "the greatest I have ever seen".
Asked to comment, Federer said: "It's not up to us. It's up to the fans and media to debate.
I'm happy we put in a great effort. It was a fair battle, which was tough with the rain delays. You know, some great points.
"I just think we both played tough until the very end. Unfortunately in tennis, there has to be winners and losers. There's no draws.
"With the fading light, the victory became even more special, similar to when Pete won his seventh Wimbledon title against Pat Rafter.
"That looked incredible. I wish obviously it was me with the trophy, but that's the way it is now."
And Federer paid tribute to his rival, who became the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win the French Open and Wimbledon titles back to back.
"He's definitely improved his game. Since the beginning of the year he's been playing well. He's been playing very consistent," he said.
"He's playing better on the quicker courts. I don't think he really needed a match like this today to really prove himself. But for some, only trophies count.
"He's a great competitor, a great player to play against, and I think he did very well today."
Federer will hold onto the world number one spot, but defeat on his favourite surface will lead many to question whether he is still the world's best player.
He would go some way to banishing those doubts by winning Olympic gold for the first time in Beijing, before he attempts to defend his US Open title, now the only Grand Slam in his possession.