TENNIS: When the dust settled on the Australian Open at 11.05pm on Sunday, there was simply no doubt.
The 2017 extravaganza was, indeed, the greatest tennis show on earth.
From the seismic first-week shocks generated by the departures of world No 1 Andy Murray and defending champions Novak Djokovic and Angelique Kerber to the extraordinary final weekend, the Open scaled unprecedented heights.
And then, finally, there was the five-set classic, the match for the ages, featuring Roger Federerr and Rafael Nadal.
If Melbourne Park has staged a more gripping and electrifying final, it is difficult to recall - even the six-hour marathon here in 2012 between Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
From the first ball to the last, this was pure theatre - and a totally appropriate finale to a mesmering tournament.
Serena and Venus Williams added another dimension, turning back the clock to 2003 and reminding the world of a truly remarkable family story.
Venus was an inspiration, defying illness, quality opposition and Father Time to reach her first final in eight years at 36 years of age.
Serena was even more compelling, snaffling a 23rd major crown - and seventh at Melbourne Park (all in the odd years) - to move within one of Australian Margaret Court's long-standing record of 24.
Apart from the excellence of Rafa, Roger, Serena and Venus, the 2017 Open was a timely reminder of just how durable - and precious - the stars of the game are.
The Bryan twins, Bob and Mike, reached the doubles final, aged 38, losing to Australian John Peers and Henri Kontinen.
It was that kind of tournament.
The "Throwback Open” also paraded 38-year-old Radek Stepanek, who emerged through qualifying and the 37-year-old serving phenom Ivo Karlovic.
In a sport once ruled by youth, 29-year-old Mischa Zverev found the form of his life to eliminate Murray.
But, at the end of 14 days and nights, it took Federer and Nadal to elevate the tournament to unprecedented heights.
Like Serena and Venus, Roger and Rafa are colossal tennis figures.
As great as they have been, and still are, neither could have envisaged the drama and tension which engulfed an extraordinary match.
Respect and enduring skill defines the pair's 35-match rivalry and so it was again this time.
Whatever the future holds for both, it's probable there will never be another Australian Open like this.
As the pre-final hype went, this was a match for the ages - in truth, a tournament for the ages.
And a throwback to vintage times.
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