Had he won, Federer would have become the oldest star to win the title. The 33 year old Swiss star waved at the crowd saying, "See you next year", before signing off from the court, thereby dismissing off all the rumours about his retirement.
Djokovic beat Federer 6-7 (7), 6-4, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-4 in three hours and 56 minutes and thus ended his 18-month wait for his seventh Grand Slam title.
In three major finals since the Australian Open win, Djokovic has been obliged to arrange his features into the expression of the graceful runners-up.
But Sunday afternoon here at Wimbledon, by his own magnificent efforts, he snapped the losing habit. There was no leap of joy, no howl of victory. It was only after the obligatory handshakes that his knees gave way.
To describe this final as riveting is to sell it a long story short.
With Djokovic a heartbeat from his seventh Slam, the Swiss delivered what he believed to be an ace. The line judge called it out, Federer summoned Hawk-Eye and was proven correct.
A few minutes earlier, Federer was 2-5 down, looking like a tired man running out of ideas, but it turned out to be a cunning disguise.
With the aid of that pivotal challenge, he plundered five games on the bounce to take the match into the decider, and in those moments it seemed that destiny must be waiting for him.
Federer would indeed become the oldest Wimbledon champion at 32 years 332 days, he would collect an historic eighth Wimbledon and 18th Grand Slam. It wasn't to be.
The laurels were richly earned by Djokovic - for keeping his head after losing that Championship point and for seeing the match go into a decider when all the momentum had seemed to be with him.
In that last set, he battled all kinds of demons - he needed the trainer for the second occasion in the match, this time to attend to his right knee in a medical time-out (previously it was his left ankle), he fended off a break point at 3-3 and then saw Federer save a whole clutch of break points himself.
From the outset, the intensity level was extraordinary. Federer was happy to come to the net, not so much intent on serve and volley as serve and attack. The quality of Djokovic's return was, as always, startling.