Djokovic subsequently may not have reproduced the blistering form that brought him three Grand Slam titles in 2011, but runs into the finals of the French and US Opens and the semi-finals at Wimbledon deservedly saw him finish the year on top.
It was an achievement that if anything, he said, meant more to him than what he produced in the previous year given the quality of the opposition he had to face from Nadal, Federer and Andy Murray.
For the first time since 2003, before Federer took command of the sport, the four Grand Slam titles were shared out.
Djokovic beat Nadal in five sets in Australia, Nadal beat Djokovic in four sets in Paris, Federer beat Murray in four at Wimbledon and Murray edged Djokovic in five in New York.
Murray had the added satisfaction of winning Olympic gold over Federer in London and Djokovic had the last word against Federer also in London.