The final at the ATP 1000 Mutua Madrid Open was billed to be a blockbuster.
The two best players in the world were to do battle. One was bringing his unbeaten streak of 31 wins this year to the match. The other was bringing his unbeaten streak of 37 wins on clay. At the end of the day, one streak was bound to end.
Most expected Rafael Nadal to prevail. The battle was on his turf and in front of his home crowd. He has been considered the undisputed king of this surface since 2005.
Yet it was Djokovic who won in two pulsating sets.
Although both men played at an incredible level, the difference between them was that Djokovic seemed to have no weaknesses. His serve was excellent. So were his forehand, backhand and movement.
Djokovic incredibly outrallied Nadal. Djokovic seems at least as mentally strong as Nadal in crunch situations. His return of service is the best in the world.
Nadal's backhand and serve were not at their best. Whether it was this or something else, one noticed that Nadal did not seem to have the self-belief that we have come to associate with him.
True, Madrid has never been Nadal's best clay surface. Before we crown Djokovic as the new King of Clay, he has to win Rome and Roland Garros.
Nadal has announced his intention of working on his game and finding a way to beat Djokovic.
The coming weeks will show whether the victory at Madrid was a prognosticator of the fall of Nadal and annexation of the clay throne by Djokovic. Or whether Madrid was just an aberration in the long reign of King Nadal.
However, as far as winning the coveted No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings is concerned, unless something unexpected were to befall Djokovic, he seems to have pretty much sewn up the place to be his by July this year.
If Nadal wins Rome, Roland Garros, Queen's and Wimbledon and Djokovic is a finalist in all of them, it would be Djokovic in the lead in ranking points. So in order to thwart Djokovic, Nadal not only has to win all the remaining tournaments in the clay-grass court season but also hope the Serb doesn't make some final.
Even the year-end No. 1 seems to be in the bag for the Serb unless he suffers some injury, for it is unlikely that in the outdoor and indoor hard court season Nadal would be able to surpass Djokovic.