Novak Djokovic blamed mental and physical exhaustion after another desperate day for the Serbian at the Olympic Games meant he will leave Tokyo empty-handed.
The world number one lost 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 to Pablo Carreno Busta in the singles bronze medal match, smashing one racket against a net post and tossing another into the stands in gestures of frustration.
Djokovic then cited a shoulder injury as he pulled out of the mixed doubles third-place match. That decision meant Ash Barty and John Peers of Australia took bronze, with Djokovic and his unfortunate Serbia partner Nina Stojanovic finishing fourth.
"I am dealing with injuries. Not one, more than one," Djokovic said in an interview with Serbian media, according to tennismajors.com. "I hope that it won't stop me from going to the US Open, which is my next big goal.
"I feel bad for Nina because we did not fight for a medal in mixed, but my body said 'enough'. I have played under medications and abnormal pain and exhaustion."
The 34-year-old Djokovic said he had put his "very last source of energy" into the tournament and was satisfied with his effort, with a semi-final defeat to Alexander Zverev on Friday having left him resigned to a battle for what by his standards was perceived as a consolation prize.
But Djokovic added: "I know I've not played well today, and yesterday in the second and third set.
"The exhaustion, both physical and mental, got to me and it's unfortunate that in the most important matches I just didn't deliver, but I gave it all."
Djokovic suggested the Paris Olympics in 2024 were a possible target, although he must be becoming sick of Olympic tennis by now, having only one bronze to show for four attempts to win gold.
He took bronze in 2008 but lost to Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro both in the third-place match at London 2012 and the first round at Rio 2016.
Now there is more Games agony to digest, as well as a need to reboot ahead of the upcoming North American hardcourt swing and that US Open campaign. His hopes of a calendar Golden Slam are over but a sweep of the grand slams remains a possibility, having already landed the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles.
"I've had some heart-breaking losses at the Olympics Games," Djokovic said. "I know that those losses have usually made me stronger. I know that I will bounce back. I will try to keep going for the Paris Olympic Games. I will fight for my country to win medals."
Carreno Busta's reaction was thoroughly refreshing, with the Spaniard jubilant to secure a medal.
"It’s a bronze medal, but for me it’s like a gold. I haven’t won the tournament, but it’s the best title of my career"— ITF (@ITFTennis) July 31, 2021
An #Olympics medal means the world for @pablocarreno91 #Tokyo2020 | #Tennis pic.twitter.com/fOOlfq4a5z
He said: "This week has been a very harsh week mentally for me. When I saw Novak lost, and I had to play him for this medal, I had my doubts.
"But last night I slept like I haven't slept in Tokyo. I slept for nine hours straight, that was an advantage to me. I came on to the court today knowing Spain was behind me.
"This is even more incredible than winning other tournaments. I've won Davis Cup, I've gone far in other tournaments, but winning an Olympic medal is indescribable. Words fail me, I felt Spain rallying behind me. A bronze medal is a dream come true for me."
The knock-on effort of Djokovic's withdrawal from the mixed doubles meant Barty and Peers added to Australia's medals haul without having to step on court for the third-place play-off.
Barty insisted she and Peers were worthy bronze medallists, saying: "It's incredible. It's unique circumstances and heartbreaking for Team Serbia not to get out on court.
"But for Johnny and I this is a dream come true for us. I feel like we've really deserved this one."