An astute Andy Murray today kept Novak Djokovic dancing around the Cincinnati centre court like a wedding guest forced to stay up way beyond his bedtime, as the Scot took his seventh Masters title 6-4 3-0 (retired).
There was a time following Djokovic's first grand-slam victory in 2008 when all the Serb seemed good for was reaching semi-finals and looking absolutely shattered. Although this was a final, it provided a haunting reminder of those days for the world number one.
On this occasion, though, there was good reason for Djokovic's fatigue. Nine titles this year, a 33-0 winning streak on US hardcourts and a shoulder injury sustained against Gael Monfils in the quarter-finals all conspired to make the Serb appear more tired than James Murdoch's legal team.
Djokovic began the match like a man who didn't believe he could win; Murray like a man who couldn't believe his luck. Shifting his friend around mercilessly in the Ohio steambath, the Scot broke in the very first game and kept his foot on the gas with a smart mix of height, pace and spin.Read more (340 words)
The Wimbledon champion continued to look as knackered as a one-legged dwarf in a butt-kicking competition, and it was the third game before Djokovic strung together a rally of any conviction.
With Murray teeing off on some refreshingly purposeful forehands and Djokovic looking like he was on the receiving end of one of the NATO bombing missions that punctuated his childhood, the first set looked a done deal.
But the world number one had other ideas, breaking back for 3-3. In the next game, however, with Murray break-point up at 30-40, a brutal and beefy rally ended with a weak Djokovic volley. Murray snapped away the easy forehand and the crowd sensed a tipping point.
The toughest task for Murray, looking as lean as a wolf on his Djoker-style gluten-free diet, was dealing with the two Djokovics on the other side of the net. There was the tired, disaffected Nole who produced 28 unforced errors and the winning machine we'd grown used to, who occasionally popped up like the lights on a funfair batak game.
But Murray upped the ante, piled on the aggression, and held for 5-3. From there, the Serb threw everything into salvaging the first set, but capitulated under a barrage of heavy forehands as Murray took it 6-4.
At this point, some who had witnessed the Serb's extravagant celebrations of late might have expected treatment to his ego, but the post-set medical attention was limited to Djokovic's troublesome shoulder.
From thereon in, it was one-way traffic. Murray kept the world number one off balance with a series of brilliantly executed groundshots, and the Serbinator called it a day at 3-0 after netting a gimme of a smash.
Injury or no, a Masters title is a Masters title. And, with Nadal out of sorts and Federer fading fast, this felt very much like a dress rehearsal for a US Open final. After his capitulation to the Serb in the Australian Open final, Murray would surely relish the opportunity to set the record straight in three weeks' time.