When Rafael Nadal’s forehand sailed into the tramlines, Novak Djokovic raised his arms in celebration on winning his third ATP World Tour Finals title.
It seemed fitting that the season should culminate in a match involving the two best players of 2013. Nadal and Djokovic have been the men to beat.
Their achievements in 2013 have been extraordinary, capturing three of the four Grand Slams between them, fourteen other tour titles and reaching a further six finals.
They have shared the world number one ranking throughout the year. It is amazing to see such dominance from two players, the question is: Can anyone stop them in 2014?
Djokovic began the year the same way he did in 2012 winning the Australian Open title by defeating Andy Murray in four tight sets.
The signs looked good for him to win that final elusive Grand Slam in Roland Garros.
The King of Clay had been out injured, only returning in February at the modest Vina del Mar tournament and losing in the final to the then ranked number 73 in the world.
No one could have predicted that Nadal’s comeback could have been so impressive, with a more attacking game, full of winners and displaying the same high intensity that he showed before the knee injury that many said would end his career.
In Paris, the pair played out the match of the tournament, a stunning five-set thriller in the semi-finals, with Nadal emerging victorious 9-7 in the fifth.
Despite a shock first round loss to Steve Darcis at Wimbledon - a tournament where Djokovic finished runner up - Nadal seemed to get better and better as the year progressed, compiling a scintillating winning streak where he captured titles at Toronto, Cincinnati and the US Open.
He truly was unstoppable in this period, not even Djokovic seemed to be able to get close to him.
However, after Nadal’s 13th Grand Slam triumph in September, the year belonged to Djokovic. Despite the disappointment of losing the number one ranking, he managed to put together a 22 match winning streak, bringing him four titles culminating in his second successive ATP World Tour Finals win. He even has a chance to extend this in the upcoming Davis Cup.
So can anyone match them in 2014?
Both Nadal and Djokovic have double the number of ranking points of world number three David Ferrer.
This highlights the incredible gap between the two and the rest of the field. Arguably the only respite in 2013 from their domination was Andy Murray’s historic Wimbledon victory in July.
He could have challenged the pair more in the second half of the season had it not been for an operation to fix a slipped disc in his back. One wonders what kind of recovery he can make for 2014 and how good his form will be.
I believe that despite the operation, Andy Murray can stop the Nadal-Djokovic supremacy.
He is now a proven Grand Slam winner, who has the skill and capability to both match and exceed the talents of Nadal and Djokovic.
At a time when the only other Grand Slam winners are Roger Federer, who seems to be in decline and Juan Martin Del Potro, who doesn’t seem able to sustain the required level, Murray appears to be the only man who possesses what’s necessary to beat them.
However, these are mere predictions that can be assessed later, while we look back at a year where despite Murray’s glorious victory at SW19, two men really did reign supreme.
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