This was the final act in Djokovic's 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 victory over Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final - a sweat-drenched, sneaker-squeaking 5 hour, 53-minute endurance contest that ended at 1:37 a.m. Monday morning in Melbourne.
Djokovic overcame a break in the fifth set to win his fifth Grand Slam tournament and third in a row. None, though, quite like this. This one involved tears, sweat and, yes, even a little blood. It was the longest Grand Slam singles final in the history of pro tennis and it came against Nadal, the player who built a career on his tenacity - on outlasting opponents in matches like these.
"It was obvious on the court for everybody who has watched the match that both of us, physically, we took the last drop of energy that we had from our bodies," Djokovic said. "We made history tonight and unfortunately there couldn't be two winners."
When the drama was finally over at Rod Laver Arena, the 24-year-old Djokovic joined Laver, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and Nadal as the only men who have won three consecutive majors since the Open Era began in 1968. Nadal was his vanquished opponent in all three.
Djokovic will go for the "Nole Slam" at Roland Garros in May.
Image: Novak Djokovic of Serbia whips off his shirt after defeating Rafael Nadal of Spain, bottom, during the men's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship, in Melbourne, Australia, early Monday, Jan. 30, 2012.
Text and Images: AP