Paris - Novak Djokovic saw his dreams of becoming just the eighth man to claim a career Grand Slam shattered again at the French Open, but vowed to eventually secure an elusive title on the Paris clay.
The world number one was the overwhelming favourite to beat Stan Wawrinka, just as he had done in 17 of 20 previous clashes.
But the 28-year-old Serb's 11th visit to Paris ended in an all too familiar story as a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 loss also put an end to becoming just the third man to complete a calendar Grand Slam.
It was Djokovic's third defeat in the last four finals, leaving his record in championship matches at the majors at eight wins and eight losses.
"I'm proud of the fight that I put into this match. It wasn't to be," said Djokovic whose Grand Slam tally remains at five Australian Opens, two Wimbledon titles and a single triumph at the US Open.
Djokovic was in tears on the presentation podium as the 15 000-capacity crowd inside Court Philippe Chatrier afforded him a lengthy standing ovation.
"It gives me even more motivation to come back and keep on trying.
"It wasn't 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."
Djokovic is not the only Grand Slam title winner to have come up short on the crushed red brick surface of Roland Garros.
Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Stefan Edberg and even his coach Boris Becker never won in Paris.
He was handed a tough draw this year, having to defeat nine-time champion Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals and then needing five sets played over two days to see off Andy Murray in the semis.
Wawrinka had his work cut out too - he had to get past Roger Federer in the quarter-finals.
"I don't want to come up with excuses, saying these two matches took a lot out of me," insisted Djokovic.
"I don't think that's fair to Stan. I don't think that's fair to sit here and whine. Certainly those two matches were very big in terms of physical demand and mental, emotional, as well. But I was today feeling pretty fresh as much as I could. I mean, I was ready to go out and fight, and I have done so."
"Maybe in some important moments I didn't feel I had that explosivity in the legs, but, look, in the end he was just a better player."
Djokovic lost in the 2012 and 2014 finals in Paris to Nadal while a semi-final loss to Federer in 2011 ended a 41-match winning streak. That year he won all the other three majors.
This time around, he arrived in Paris not having lost since February and with the Australian Open and Masters crowns in Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo and Rome safely secured.
His defeat Sunday was just his third in 44 matches since the turn of the year.
But he believes he dealt with the pressure and expectations that came with his pursuit of history on Sunday.
"I think people tend to create more of a story where it's just me," he said.
"It feels like I'm the only player who wants to win this trophy and nobody wants to win it as much as I do; this is completely untrue.
"I think that's something that we have to keep in mind. I'm not trying now to release the pressure for myself. Pressure is part of what I do. I got used to it. I had many tough matches in my life.
"Today I went out on the court knowing I'm close, but across the net I had also player that wanted to win and he had a match to lose. He deserved to win. That's all can I say."