Forgotten Federer the man to beat Djokovic
When Novak Djokovic netted a regulation forehand at 3-3 in the fourth set tie-break, he pulled his shirt over his head, turned his back on the play and went as white as a sheet. He knew full well the significance of the miss.
Roger Federer rifled down two massive first serves to move from 4-3 to 6-3 and, even though Djokovic saved the first two match points, the almighty duel came to a close with another Federer ace.
Paul Annacone, the former coach of that great serve-monger Pete Sampras, must have been thinking, "Where have I seen that before?"
It was devastating stuff, just as it had been in the 5-5 game to save break points, with the serves so accurate the top returner in the game couldn't get close.
Federer wagged his finger like telling off naughty schoolkids, chattering at the back of the class about their over-the-hill teacher.
The subject of numerous "under the radar" stories had been cast as the forgotten man - the gooseberry in the threesome as Nadal and Djokovic battle to be the sport's top man.
As third seed, Federer was even relegated to Court Suzanne Lenglen for two rounds in a row. That must have dented the ego. But he got on with the job, adding straight-sets wins to straight-sets wins, and he now has an incredible victory against Djokovic to add to his numerous career highlights.
And I firmly believe that if he backs up the Djokovic triumph with a first win at Roland Garros over Nadal, at the age of 29, it will be his crowning glory.
Djokovic can reflect with pride on an incredible victory sequence and a stirring comeback in the semi-final which almost forced a fifth set. I have to admit, I thought he was finished at 4-1 down in the second set and I doubt I was alone. But thankfully the fight continued and the match turned into the finest modern day contest since the 2008 Wimbledon final, with all its similar late-night drama.
The player of the season had played his part in the match of the season.
"It was a pleasure to be part of a great match, of course," said Djokovic at the end of an admirable press conference. "The streak had to end, I knew it was coming."
And of course, for all the fanciful thinking and odds of 100-1 against going the entire year unbeaten, we all knew it had to end.
We marvelled at the man from Melbourne to Madrid via Miami - 41 matches played, 41 matches won. Throw in Dubai, Indian Wells, Belgrade and Rome and you have seven tournaments played, seven titles scooped.
One of the great streaks in modern day sport, achieved in an era when his two main rivals are two of the greatest players of all time, systematically assembled by a determined professional at the top of his game.
He came up one match short of equalling John McEnroe's record 42-win start to the 1984 season. Ironically, if Fabio Fognini had dragged himself out of bed to play their quarter-final (the Italian smiled his way through his withdrawal announcement) Djokovic would have beaten him to enter the history books.
But McEnroe has gone on record saying his start wasn't as impressive. He mopped up at indoor tournaments during the spring of '84 and didn't have to play a Grand Slam as the Aussie Open was in December back then.
Novak Djokovic will be long remembered in tennis as the man who, for almost half a season, couldn't be beaten and helped men's tennis hit new heights.
A sensational Paris semi-final day, with seven thrilling sets, provided plenty of evidence to support Andy Murray's assertion that standards are getting better and better. Even during his short career, and the past season in particular, Murray has noticed a definite step up in speed and power and accuracy.
That is why standing still is not an option.
As Djokovic has pressed, coming to within one victory of the top ranking, so Nadal and Federer have needed to respond.
Nadal must still beat Federer on Sunday to keep the world number one ranking, and in doing so he would match Bjorn Borg's record of six French titles. Federer is hoping for a first win in five Roland Garros attempts against his great rival and success would surely confirm his place as the greatest of all-time.
But they both have much to thank Djokovic for.
They would have more titles and better records this year without him, but the Serb has kept the greats of the game on their toes. He has improved his rivals and improved himself. And, as Murray quite rightly suggests, the sport of tennis is at an all-time high as a result.
Hopefully it's a championship match to emphasise the point.