Andy Murray stood proudly on top of the tennis world after beating Novak Djokovic to win the ATP World Tour Finals and clinch the year-end world number one ranking.
It has undoubtedly been the finest season of Murray’s career but it would have had a bitter ending had he not walked away with the trophy at London’s O2 Arena on Sunday night.
Instead, he defied the tiredness he must have felt to stamp his authority on proceedings against the man who he overhauled two weeks ago and win 6-3 6-4.
It extended Murray’s winning run to 24 matches, earned him a fifth straight title and a cheque for nearly £2 million.
Their 34 previous meetings, of which Djokovic had won 24, had included seven grand slam finals but this was a uniquely tense occasion.
What would have been a 50/50 contest appeared to have swung decisively Djokovic’s way when Murray was detained for three hours and 38 minutes by Milos Raonic in Saturday’s semi-finals.
The Serbian, meanwhile, needed little more than an hour to swat aside Kei Nishikori, who was still feeling the effects of his own three-hour clash with Murray on Wednesday.
But Djokovic’s groundstrokes lacked their usual authority and he was missing routine shots – not least a smash from on top of the net that he drove way long.
That came in a lengthy sixth game in which Murray held two break points.
Djokovic held on that time but Murray was given another chance two games later and took it, drilling a forehand into the corner.
The Scot was treading the line perfectly, going for his shots, particularly on the forehand, but not giving away free points.
He was leaving that to Djokovic, who netted another backhand on set point and then dropped serve again to start the second set.
Murray had never beaten the man he first played in junior tennis nearly 20 years ago from a set down, losing all 19 matches, so the early advantage was crucial.
There appeared no way back when a lacklustre Djokovic was broken again to trail 4-1 but an immediate re-break set home nerves jangling just a little.
Murray, though, quelled the butterflies and, amid a patriotic din, took his third match point when Djokovic drove a final forehand wide.
Murray dropped his racket and held his arms aloft with a look of mild astonishment on his face before embracing Djokovic at the net.
After collecting the tournament and number one trophies, he said: “Obviously it’s a very special day. Playing against Novak in a match like this, we’ve played grand slam finals, Olympics, it’s been a tough rivalry.
“I’ve lost many of them, I’m very happy I managed to win today. To finish the year number one is something I never expected.”
When Djokovic beat Murray to win the French Open and hold all four grand slam trophies, it seemed inconceivable he would not finish the year number one.
But he has won only one tournament since and has a lot of work to do if he is to rediscover top form.
The 29-year-old said: “It’s been a fantastic year. Obviously there’s a lot to look back to, great highlights, especially in the first six months.
“Today we were both part of history, it was an honour to be on the court. Andy is clearly number one of the world, he’s the best player.
“He played the best tennis in the decisive moments. I wasn’t able to come back. I started playing a bit better but it was too late. I congratulate Andy and his team for a great year.”