Novak Djokovic left London's O2 Arena as the undefeated champion of the Barclay's ATP World Tour Finals after beating Roger Federer 7-6 (8-6) 7-5. With both players producing tennis of the highest order, it was a compelling match that provided a fitting end to a wonderful tennis season.
It was a staggeringly close match, with barely a hair's breadth separating the two finest players in the world. Djokovic won 96 points and Federer won 95, but, whereas Djokovic took his chances with ruthless efficiency, Federer squandered his.
The Swiss player raced to a 3-0 lead, winning 12 straight points. It looked as if he was continuing where he left off in his semi-final against Andy Murray, but Djokovic proved a far tougher opponent than the US Open champion. 3-0 soon became 3-3.
The first set was decided by a superb tie-break, with momentum swinging one way then the other, before Djokovic eventually took it 8-6. At that stage, Federer had actually won more points than his opponent (52-48) but somehow lost a set he was at once in control of.
Federer then blew two set points at 5-4 in the second, just as it seemed he was going to level the match. It's a moment he will look back on with contempt; he's usually infallible in those situations. This time he wavered and Djokovic pounced, breaking his serve with a superb forehand. Djokovic then held comfortably before breaking Federer's serve once more to win the title. The match ended with a beautiful forehand winner that left Federer flailing helplessly at the net.
Historically, this has been Federer's tournament, with this his eighth appearance in the final, having won it on six previous occasions. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him add to that tally before he retires from the game.
The win caps a fine year for Djokovic, who also won the Australian Open in January and finishes the season as world number one for the second successive year. This was the second time he has won the end-of-year finale having triumphed four years ago when the event was staged in Shanghai. There is little doubt that he is currently the best player on the tour, even if the margin by which he is out in front is small.
2012 has been a memorable year for tennis, and With Andy Murray's renewed post-Grand Slam winning confidence, and the imminent return of Rafael Nadal, 2013 looks set to be equally compelling. Four players are dominating the game and pushing each other to achieve heights never before seen in the game. It's a fabulous time to be a tennis fan.
Follow Robert Pollard on Twitter: www.twitter.com/robpollard_