In an epic ending to an epic year, two of the greatest fighters in history went to war on Sunday, both battling for season-ending glory at the Sony Ericsson Championships. And after a three-hour, 24-minute marathon it was Justine Henin who was victorious, capping a record-breaking season with a 57 75 63 triumph and her 10th Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title of the year.
Henin's championship victory over Maria Sharapova - which, incidentally, placed at No.12 on the all-time list of longest matches - was a nail-biter from start to finish.
For Sharapova, a run to the final here was a statement that she is still very much one of the grittiest and most dangerous competitors around. After a tough season that began with her reaching the Australian Open final and re-ascending to No.1 but saw her suffer a string of early round defeats and slip to No.6 in the world coming into Madrid, this week has been nothing but a reaffirmation.
For Henin, this season could barely have been better. She won 63 of 67 matches (a .940 winning percentage, the likes of which haven't been seen since Graf had a .977 season in 1989) and 10 of the 14 events she played, including her sixth and seventh major titles at Roland Garros and the US Open (not since Hingis in 1997 has a player won double digit titles in a season). And with the exception of seven weeks early on, she held the No.1 ranking the entire season.