Rafael Nadal put the seal on a throwback year for men’s tennis by winning his 16th grand slam title at the US Open.
With the Spaniard also claiming his 10th French Open title and Roger Federer winning in Australia and Wimbledon, it is the first time for seven years that the sport’s two biggest superstars have swept its greatest prizes.
Once Federer lost to Juan Martin del Potro in the quarter-finals in New York, it was always likely that Nadal would take home the trophy.
And he proved far too strong for first-time finalist Kevin Anderson, winning 6-3 6-3 6-4 in two hours and 27 minutes.
The renewed dominance of Federer and Nadal would have been scarcely believable at the end of last season, when injuries put question marks over both of their futures.
“Of course I am surprised,” said Nadal. “But I was surprised in January. Now I am not that much surprised. After the first two, three months of the season, you see that I am playing well, and if I am playing well on clay, I normally am going to have my chances.
“Of course he was playing great, so of course he will have his chances on grass and on hard later, like he had here.”
Nadal’s victory saw him again close to within three grand slam titles of Federer at the top of the all-time list – how different that would look had the Spaniard not the Swiss edged their dramatic battle in the Australian Open final.
Given Nadal is 31 to Federer’s 36, the prospect of the former eventually overtaking the latter appears distinctly possible once more.
“I really never thought much about that,” insisted Nadal. “I just do my way. He does his way. Let’s see when we finish. I’m very happy with all the things that are happening to me, winning this title again. I have this trophy with me.
“It’s so important, winning on hard court again. That’s a lot of positive energy for me. Being healthy, you see everything more possible. With injuries, everything seems impossible.
“It’s true that I am 31, I am not 25, but I still have the passion and the love for the game. I still want to compete and still feel the nerves every time that I go on court. While those things keep happening, I will be here.”
This has been a special season also because it is the last Nadal will share on the road with his uncle Toni, who has been his coach since he first picked up a racket aged three.
Toni will stay at home in Majorca to concentrate on the family’s tennis academy, with Carlos Moya taking over the reins. Toni has been a famously tough taskmaster for his nephew but he could have few complaints about Nadal’s performance against Anderson.
Nadal put pressure on the serve of the 6ft 8in South African from the start and the result appeared inevitable once he broke for the first time in the seventh game. The world number one, meanwhile, did not face a single break point, losing just 15 points on serve all match.