Rafael Nadal had a season for the ages. Highlights included supplanting Roger Federer as No. 1 in the world, winning the French Open and Wimbledon, and taking the Olympic gold medal in Beijing in August. The Spaniard had an incredible 82-11 record and won eight tournaments in all, including a string of five in a row. Nadal won on clay, grass and hard courts and in the process ended Federer’s run of 237 consecutive weeks as No. 1. No longer could he be known as just the Clay Master, although four of his titles did come on the slow stuff. When the man from Majorca sprawled on the turf in the gloaming at Wimbledon after his epic five-set victory over Federer, he finally knew he was the world’s best tennis player even though the ATP computer didn’t indicate it yet. “It’s impossible to explain what I felt in that moment,” Nadal said after the 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7 victory. “I am very happy for me, but sorry for him, because he deserved this title, too.” It was arguably one of the greatest matches ever played. By his high standards, Federer didn’t have a good year, although he did win four tournaments and reached three of the four major finals. Clearly, the Swiss Maestro’s high point was his 13th career Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open in September. Nipping at Federer’s heels as the season came to an end was No. 3 Novak Djokovic. Djokovic won the Australian Open in January and the Masters Cup in Shanghai in November, along with two other titles sandwiched in between. The Serb ended the year just 10 ranking points behind Federer. Also joining the top three in elite status was superb Scotsman Andy Murray, who moved up to No. 4 in the rankings. Murray won five tournaments and had an impressive 6-5 record against the trio ranked above him, including 3-1 against Federer and 2-1 versus Djokovic. His semifinal knockout of Nadal at Flushing Meadows prevented the Spaniard from going for his 3rd Grand Slam title of the year. Monday marks the start of the 2009 season with tournaments in Brisbane, Chennai and Doha. Tee it up and play.