For two hours and 13 minutes there was nothing to choose between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray as they thrilled the crowd in Melbourne with another pulsating final clash.
Slowly but surely, however, the world number one reminded everyone why he is so hard to beat, as his epic defensive skills ground Murray down into an exhausted wreck.
There was little more Murray could do as he sought to become the first player to win his second Grand Slam title immediately after winning his first.
The Scot will perhaps rue getting worked up over the little details: serving a double fault at a crucial time in the second set tie-break after becoming distracted by a feather falling on to the court, for example, or getting irritated with the crowd late in the third set for calling out between first and second serves.
In the end, Djokovic just looked as though he could continue on in the same vein for hours more, while exhaustion was etched over Murray’s face for much of the last set and a half.
Okay, so the Serb had an extra day to recover after his semi-final, courtesy of playing in the top half of the draw. And okay, so Djokovic crushed David Ferrer in straight sets in that semi-final while Murray only had 48 hours to recover after being pushed to five gruelling sets by Roger Federer.
But that's the nature of Grand Slam tennis and Djokovic had been forced to recover from a five-set epic against Stanislas Wawrinka earlier in the tournament before taking on Tomas Berdych 48 hours later, while Andy Murray had barely been tested before that last four clash with Federer.
It was Djokovic who channelled his inner Energiser bunny, however, combining his boundless energy with metronomic ground-strokes and moments of such quality that the crowd gasped in delight regularly. Even Murray was left smiling in admiration at times.
Early in the first set Djokovic won a point despite falling over, almost bouncing back up off the court before going on to take the point with a backhand drop shot winner.
The eventual champion also came out on top of a 36-stroke rally, which really proved the turning point of the match, biding his time before producing a forehand winner out of nowhere that landed right in the corner of the court and left Murray stranded.
Murray was far from outplayed. He provided plenty of highlights, the kind of tennis that most people, pros included, can only dream of.
No, Murray was not outplayed like he was in his first four Grand Slam final defeats. More simply he was outlasted on the day, in much the same way he overcame Djokovic in the US Open final four months ago.
VIDEO OF THE DAY:
As if those two previous videos of Djokovic weren't enough, the Serb also displayed some enviable football skills during the match, taking the ball out of the air and nailing a left-footed volley!
PHOTO OF THE DAY:
Everyone loves a vaguely gross shot of someone’s foot, right? And so with that in mind, let’s finish the tournament with a photo of Murray’s blistered right foot receiving attention during the medical time-out at the end of the second set.