There are few things that divide opinion more in the world of tennis than analysing the quality of Grand Slam finals. Even within a single year, everyone has their personal favourite from the eight showpiece singles matches at the 'big four'.
Beyond simply lining up personal allegiances with the victors from each of the four Slams, the contests have to be considered in terms of the quality of the tennis on show, along with the wider context.
There were seven different winners of Grand Slams in 2012, with only Serena Williams able to bag two as the American ended the season in dominant fashion. Oh, and it would have been three for the 31-year-old if Tramlines were to consider the Olympic Games in London.
So without further ado, let's remind ourselves of each of the Grand Slam finals in 2012. Feel free to make your case for what you believe to have been the best of the year in the comments' section below.
Australian Open men's singles - Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 7-5
Djokovic's achievement in coming out on top in a gruelling final with Nadal was made all the more remarkable given his epic semi-final win over Andy Murray two days earlier. The defending champion battled past the Spaniard in what was the longest Grand Slam final on record at five hours and 53 minutes. The match, which eventually ended at 1:37 am local time, left both players requiring chairs at the trophy ceremony, such was their extreme exhaustion. The Serb looked in trouble at a set down with many predicting a tired display after his last-four clash with Murray, but he roared back to claim what he described as the "greatest match of my career". A gracious Nadal added: "Physically it was the toughest match I have ever played".
Australian Open women's singles - Victoria Azarenka beat Maria Sharapova 6-3 6-0
When Azarenka arrived in Australia, she was regarded as one of a group of highly-promising players on the WTA Tour who had yet to produce on the very biggest stage. But that was about to change. The 23-year-old produced an inspired fortnight of tennis and demonstrated a big-match temperament as she overwhelmed Maria Sharapova in the Melbourne final. Indeed, Sharapova was comprehensively outclassed in a one-sided second set as Azarenka stormed to her maiden Grand Slam title with nerveless and, at times breathtaking, attacking play. The title helped see her top the year-end rankings.
French Open men's singles - Rafael Nadal beat Novak Djokovic 6-4 6-3 2-6 7-5
Billed as 'Rafa's revenge' following his gut-wrenching defeat to Djokovic in Australia, the Spaniard secured his third successive French Open title, and seventh in eight years. Another incredible comeback from the Serb looked possible after he took the third set, having looked distinctly second best in the first two, but Nadal came through a pulsating fourth from 5-5 to break Bjorn Borg's record of six men's singles titles at Roland Garros. Nadal, who was the second seed for the tournament, produced some scintillating play on Court Philippe Chatrier to clinch his first Slam of the year, with Djokovic left to applaud his opponent at the trophy ceremony.
French Open women's singles - Maria Sharapova beat Sara Errani 6-3 6-2
Sharapova once described her movement on clay as like "a cow on ice", but in 2012 she was about to render that comparison utterly absurd as she clinched the French Open title. The shock exit of Serena Williams in the first round - nine of the top 16 seeds failed to make it past the third round - left the path relatively clear for Sharapova, but the Russian still had to produce some sparkling play on the red dirt to complete her Grand Slam set. It could have been a fairytale crown for Italy's Sara Errani, who produced an odds-defying run to reach the final with wins over two former champions, but Sharapova was too strong with a belligerent and unwavering display. Errani was outpowered and outclassed as she mustered just five games in the final, leaving Sharapova to collect her first French Open title.
Wimbledon men's singles - Roger Federer beat Andy Murray 4-6 7-5 6-3 6-4
The match may be memorable for many because of Murray's tears, but it was a sensational match which saw Roger Federer claim a record-equalling seventh Wimbledon triumph and 17th Grand Slam title. "I felt like I was playing for the nation, and I couldn't quite do it," Murray said afterwards, fighting back his emotions. The Scot had been aiming to become the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to lift a major singles trophy but, despite having won the opening set 6-4 to send a hysterical crowd into delirium, he could not resist Federer. The Swiss thrived after slipping behind in what was a rain-affected match that required the roof to be belatedly closed, and he wrapped up his first Slam since the 2010 Australian Open in a tense finale after edging a tight fourth set.
Wimbledon women's singles - Serena Williams beat Agnieszka Radwanksa 6-1 5-7 6-2
The switch to grass saw Serena clinch her fifth Wimbledon title and, perhaps more emphatically, deliver a striking rebuttal to those who had been suggesting that her powers were on the wane. After almost losing to Zheng Jie early in the tournament, Williams reeled off 37 aces to help her defeat defending champion Petra Kvitova, then Azarenka, en route to the final, where she faced Grand Slam final debutant Agnieszka Radwanska. Serena took the opening set in staggeringly convincing fashion, losing just a single game, but Radwanska took the second to stun the American. Any possibility of an upset was quashed, however, as Williams reeled off the final four games to end a two-year wait for Grand Slam title number 14.
US Open men's singles - Andy Murray beat Novak Djokovic 7-6 7-5 2-6 3-6 6-2
It was fifth-time lucky for Murray, who ended Britain's 76-year wait for a male Grand Slam singles champion with an epic victory over Djokovic at Flushing Meadows. The 25-year-old emulated Fred Perry's 1936 achievement after edging out his great friend and rival in four hours and 54 minutes in the Arthur Ashe Stadium. Murray, who lost his first four slam finals to share an Open-era record with his coach, Ivan Lendl, mastered troublesome swirling winds to end Djokovic's 27-match hard-court winning run at majors. Djokovic had taken all the momentum into the deciding fifth set after recovering from two sets down, but Murray regained his poise and composure, taking his game to a new level just when he really needed to. "When I realised I had won, I was a little bit shocked, I was very relieved and I was very emotional," Murray said after sinking to his knees in disbelief.
US Open women's singles - Serena Williams beat Victoria Azarenka 6-2 2-6 7-5
Serena showed no signs of slowing down at all after her Wimbledon and Olympic triumphs, but still had to come through arguably the best women's singles final at a Grand Slam in recent memory. There had not been a three-set final at Flushing Meadows since 1995, but Williams and Azarenka played out a sensational contest to end the final Slam of the year in style. In what were two hours of exhilarating tennis, Williams got off to an incredibly fast start, taking the opening set for the loss of just two games and leaving her opponent subdued. But the Belarusian capitalised on some strangely hesitant play from the American in the second set to reverse the scoreline. The deciding set was a thriller from start to finish, with Serena eventually coming through from 5-5 to seal her first US Open crown since 2008.
What do you think was the best Grand Slam final of 2012? Post your comments below.
- Sports & Recreation
- Serena Williams
- Maria Sharapova
- Andy Murray
- Novak Djokovic
- Australian Open