It is a one of the year's finer ironies that Alexander Zverev captured the biggest title of his career in the eleventh month of the tennis season, in the same week he complained that eleven months is an absurd length for a sporting season.
"We play 11 months a year," Zverev lamented. "It's ridiculous. No other sport does that."
Regardless of how little the German had left in the tank this week, he produced a performance of rich quality to put the five-time champion Novak Djokovic to the sword, 6-4, 6-3, in the final of the Nitto ATP Finals.
'It's just amazing'
"This trophy means a lot, everything, to all of the players," the 21-year-old beamed afterwards. "You only have so many chances to win it and play against the best players. The way I won it, it's just amazing."
The contrast from Wednesday was stark. Then, Djokovic had dismantled Zverev's serve for the loss of five games and, in failing to drop serve in his four matches leading into the final, arrived here as heavy favorite, wearing the cloak of invincibility which has he has donned for so much of his career.
Indeed, not since his reverse to Marin Cilic at Queen's Club five months ago had Djokovic lost to a top-10 player. In Shanghai, he swatted Zverev aside with consummate ease and, save for a loss to Karen Khachanov in the final of the Paris Masters earlier this month, was back to his impenetrable best.
He produced a similarly dominant week in Shanghai last month, chalking up 47 straight service holds to become only the third player to win a Masters 1000 crown without dropping serve. He is joined in that regard by Roger Federer, a semifinalist in London this year. The other? None other than his conqueror today.
The point to clinch his first ATP Finals crown was a memorable one, lunging to his left to dig a mesmerising backhand down the line and past a dumbfounded Djokovic. His performance, though, was even more memorable. The type of display that may be looked upon in history as a turning point.
The fact Djokovic was so competitive throughout most of a compelling opening set makes the German's performance all the more impressive. The Serb was testing the will of Zverev from the baseline, and serving with familiar poise, but the 21-year-old refused to bend to the will of the 14-time Grand Slam champion.
After six games the German had missed only one first serve; his booming serve frequently able to dig himself out of holes when his ground games go awry, but another chink in his armour when he is flowing with confidence.
He was in the groove and, when break points arrived in the ninth game, he punished the Serb. Zverev closed out the first set in 39 minutes and immediately set about disarming Djokovic in the second stanza.
The German was in a commanding position when he broke to open the set, but he gifted the initiative straight back in a service game laced with unforced errors. However, that only heightened Zverev's resolve, breaking the Djokovic serve for the third time in succession to set him on his path.
"I fell on my knees, so my knees kind of hurt," the German joked. "It's quite astonishing winning this title. I'm unbelievably proud of this moment."