Marin Cilic said his mind was “blocked with the pain” of a blister on his left foot after he broke down in tears on Centre Court during his straight-sets defeat by Roger Federer.
Cilic, who wept into his towel at the start of the second set, said he was reduced to tears because the injury stopped him from playing his best tennis on the biggest stage.
The 28-year-old had undergone 30 hours of “constant” treatment for the blister, which had first flared up following his semi-final victory over Sam Querrey, but said the pain was so great that he was unable to quickly change direction on court.
He said the fluid from the blister was running down the sole of his foot as he tried to go toe-to-toe with Federer, adding that it was “very, very difficult to deal with”.
Asked what had prompted his tears, he said: “It was just a feeling that I knew I cannot give my best on the court, that I cannot give my best game and my best tennis, especially at this stage of my career, at such a big match.
“It did not hurt so much that it was putting me in tears. It was just that feeling that I was not able to give the best.
“It is tough when you are in that kind of situation. You know there is not much possibility that you are going to win. It’s just actually fighting it through.”
Cilic said he had tried to relieve some of the pain with anesthetics in the build-up to the match, adding that it had clouded his thinking and hampered his usually destructive serve because he was unable to properly position his body.
“It was very difficult to focus on the match,” he said. “My mind was all the time blocked with the pain. It was tough for me to focus on the tactics, on the things that I needed to do.
“I was not serving very good today because of that. I was just not able to set up properly on the balls. It was very, very tough to deal with it.
“Even when I was warming up for the match, I was trying to test myself in exercises with changes of direction. I was too slow, basically, to react. I knew that it was going to be difficult. But I tried.”
Cilic, who won the US Open in 2014, was unable to hide his frustration at being laid low by an injury as seemingly innocuous as a blister, but insisted he was still happy with his run to his first Wimbledon final.
“You go through so many things,” he said. “Even exercise in the gym just to get your body ready for everything. Such a small thing can make a huge difference. It is obviously extremely difficult to deal with it, to accept it in that way.
“But I am really proud of myself for everything I did in these two weeks over here. I played, I would say, probably the best tennis of my life. That is what I am going to take home with me.”
The Croat will now take three weeks off before the start of the US hard court season, but said he does not believe the injury will have any lasting effects.
“My level was on a position where it has not been before on grass, so I am extremely satisfied with that,” he said. “This will give me much more confidence, much more strength for the rest of the year.
“I know that my level can go even higher, so that is something I am looking forward to.”