Novak Djokovic said his defeat by Roger Federer in the French Open semi-finals had brought an end to the best time of his career so far.
The Serbian went down 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-5) to Federer, ending his 43-match unbeaten streak and denying him, for now, the world number one spot.
"It was the best five months of my life, my tennis career," he said.
"It had to end somewhere, I knew it was coming. Unfortunately, it came at a bad moment in a big match, but it's sport."
Friday's second semi-final, after Rafael Nadal beat Andy Murray in the first, had been a hugely anticipated match with so much riding on it.
Victory would have taken Djokovic into a first French Open final, seen him equal John McEnroe's best ever start to a year of 42 wins, brought him within two victories of Guillermo Vilas's all-time record run of 46 matches and, on top of all that, made him world number one for the first time.
"There is always pressure, there is always expectations," said the 24-year-old.
"Obviously, it's a big match. Playing against Roger in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam, it's always intense regardless of what is at stake. Both of us were very focused on the start, intense.
"We played a very long first set and if I won it, who knows in which direction the match would have gone. But I think I did well coming back into the match, just unfortunate not to finish it out in the fourth."
Djokovic had enjoyed a four-day break since his previous match following the withdrawal of Fabio Fognini through injury before their quarter-final, but he insisted that was not a disadvantage.
"During the tournament, you are in the tournament, regardless of if you're playing or not playing," he said.
"Mentally you feel that energy going on around and you need that focus, you need the concentration, you need to do the daily routine. You need to work hard and hope that this work will play off."
He also refused to blame the scheduling of the two semi-finals, which began at 2pm local time and meant the second finished in near darkness.
"The light was not great, what can you expect? It was 9.30pm in the evening. It was very hard to see the serve," he said.
"It was very hard, especially in the last couple of the points in the tie-break. But it was the same for both of us."
After a winning streak stretching back to November, when he lost to Federer at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, Djokovic admitted that relief was one of the emotions he was experiencing now it was all over.
"You do feel a relief when you finish a tournament," he said. "If you finish victorious it's much better than finishing with a loss.
"It's a disappointing loss. A loss cannot feel good, that's for sure. We are all competitive. We are professional tennis players and we want to win on the court every match."