With three Grand Slam titles, five Masters, a 70-6 winning year and a record cash haul of US$12.6 million, Novak Djokovic was the king this year.
Spurred on by leading Serbia to a maiden Davis Cup title at the back end of last year, the 24-year-old put together a 43-match winning run in the first half of this year.
It was a surge that brought him the Australian Open title in January and was only ended by a rejuvenated Roger Federer in the semi-finals at Roland Garros.
As well as claiming a second title in Melbourne, Djokovic won all the season’s opening four Masters at Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Rome, defeating Rafael Nadal in the finals of all of them.
The Serb then defeated Nadal to win Wimbledon — taking the Spaniard’s world No. 1 spot in the process — before clinching the US Open.
Again, Nadal was the vanquished opponent in the final after Djokovic had defeated Federer from two sets, and two match points down, in a breathtaking semi-final.
Djokovic’s landmark season eventually took its toll, with a combination of back and shoulder trouble condemning him to four defeats in the year’s closing stages.
“I had an unbelievable year. Nothing can really ruin that. I will always remember this year as the best of my life,” he said.
Even John McEnroe, whose season winning record of 82 wins against just three defeats, set in 1984, was briefly within the Serb’s sights after his US Open victory, when he was at 64 wins against two losses, was in awe.
“He has had the greatest year in the history of our sport,” the American said.
Djokovic probably played one of the shots of the year on match point against Federer at Flushing Meadows, when he unleashed an all-or-nothing forehand service -return that left the great Swiss rooted to the spot.
Federer double-faulted on the second match point and Djokovic was on his way again.
The figures back up Djokovic’s year of dominance.
He beat Nadal six times out of six, Federer four out of five and world No. 4 Andy Murray two in three, with the Briton’s win coming courtesy of an injury retirement in the final in Cincinnati.
The world’s leading three men have now won 29 of the last 32 Grand Slam crowns.
Since the start of 2004, only Gaston Gaudio (2004 French Open), Marat Safin (2005 Australian Open) and Juan Martin del Potro (2009 US Open) have broken their stranglehold.
Nadal took his majors collection to 10 this year with a sixth French Open title to equal Bjorn Borg’s record Paris haul.
The Spaniard lost his No. 1 spot to Djokovic and cut a jaded, -frustrated figure as the year closed, complaining about player burn-out and scheduling at the US Open.
However, claiming the winning point for a fifth Davis Cup triumph against Argentina in Seville this month at least breathed new life into the Spaniard.
Nadal will skip the Davis Cup next year, preferring to conserve his energy for his Olympic title defense and a new assault on Djokovic.
He is also wary of the drawbacks of constant action on the court — this year, Nadal played 84 matches, more than any of the top four.
“I know the one way to change the situation is to work more, think more about tennis, do everything in the right shape, do everything good inside the court, everything good outside the court,” the Spaniard said.
Nadal finished the year with three titles, the last of which was the French Open in June.