Kyle Edmund insists he is starting to feel at home on the green grass of Wimbledon - even after his exit at the All England Club.
Edmund reached the third round here for the first time but was edged out 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 by Novak Djokovic, who fought a running battle with his rival and a partisan crowd to progress.
Edmund prepared for the match by watching England’s World Cup quarter-final win in Wimbledon’s locker rooms - and, with perfect timing, walked on court just seconds after the full-time whistle in Samara.
And, for a while, it seemed this feelgood Saturday would get even better as he went shot for shot with a clearly rattled Djokovic, securing the first set in just under 50 minutes with a succession of booming forehands that left his experienced rival flat-footed.
But the three-time champion has shown signs in recent weeks of rediscovering his form, after dropping outside the world’s top 20.
He didn’t mind being the villain for the home crowd either, Edmund winning just five games in the next two sets as the Serbian established control.
The fourth set was tighter but Djokovic’s more rounded game and experience ultimately proved decisive.
“My game's really improved this year,” insisted Edmund, the last British player remaining in the singles draw. “If you think back to 12 months ago, where it was then and where it is now, there's been really good progress.
“It's been that constant learning process. I think overall it's been the case with me on the grass every year, I'm getting slightly better.
“You have to learn from your losses but I think I put a decent level out on court. Playing on Centre Court is always like a dream and a great experience.
“From playing last year in my first match here, this is the best it's been in terms of atmosphere. At points in the match it was really loud.
“When you're on Centre Court, to have the crowd behind you, it's a great thing to have.”
This is still Edmund’s best run at Wimbledon and while he will edge further into the world’s top 20, grass remains a surface where improvement is needed. His groundstrokes crackle but more variety is required.
However, his run to the semi-finals at the Australian Open earlier this year underline his undoubted class and the US hard court season presents a big opportunity for more gains, as he seeks to better a fourth round appearance at Flushing Meadows two years ago.
Meanwhile, Djokovic claimed the partisan atmosphere on Centre Court went too far - defending his decision to blow kisses at the crowd as things got tetchy.
“I expected them to support Kyle but, at times, they were slightly unfair to me,” he said.
“Some of them kept on going, provoking. That's something that I can tolerate for a little bit. If you were in my position, you would probably understand. I just reacted the way I thought it was fair, the way they reacted to me.
“I’ve played Andy Murray at Wimbledon and the Olympics here but it was definitely not like this.”
But Djokovic insisted the future was also bright for Edmund, who has succeeded Murray as British number one.
“He does have quality and he has a very good team of people around him,” he added. “He's got a great work ethic, is committed and has a lot of respect from everyone in the locker room.
“He has really improved his game in the last 12 months. We always knew his forehand was a weapon but he has come on a lot since he started working with a new coach, he has completed his game.
“He's going towards the top ten and he's definitely going to be a contender.”
Elsewhere, Jamie Murray combined with Brazilian Bruno Soares to book their place in the last 16 of the men's doubles and a clash with British brothers Ken and Neal Skupski.
Murray also won his first round mixed doubles match with Victoria Azarenka, as he seeks to defend the title he won last year with Martina Hingis.
By James Toney at Wimbledon