The Masters tournament in Madrid last week was special in many ways. Novak Djokovic managed to maintain his astonishing winning run in 2011 by beating Rafa Nadal in the final, paving the way for a serious challenge of the Nr. 1 ranking before the end of the year.
Nadal went into the tournament as the huge favourite, playing on his favourite clay surface and in front of his home crowd in the Spanish capital.
The early rounds produced no bigger surprises, except for the early loss for Andy Murray, but this is unfortunately not a huge surprise, considering Murray's recent performances since the AO final in January.
Roger Federer survived a huge scare in the second round against a spirited Feliciano Lopez, in a match that showed us just how much playing in front of a home crowd can mean to a player.
This was one of the best matches Lopez has ever played. He was on fire without any lapses, forcing Fed to dig incredibly deep to get the win in three tie-breaks.
In a repeat of last year's final, Nadal and Federer then clashed in the semis. It was a nervy match with lots of mutual respect, and the outcome could have been very different.
It took a while for Fed to settle, but when he did, he immediately took command of the first set with some highly energised tennis. After winning it, he got into an argument with the chair umpire about a questionable line call on an important point, which made him lose his concentration just enough to lose the second set.
After that, he could never really find his initial rhythm again. However, his overall performance was not at all bad, and I think it might have even been enough to beat the Spaniard on all other surfaces.
The final then brought the high-quality clash everyone was waiting for, with achingly brutal baseline tennis. As Nadal's final shot sailed wide, the Madrid crowd was forced to experience a chilling sensation - their invincible clay king had been defeated.
And this time, Nole beat him fair and square, on clay, in Spain, with Rafa in very good form. What is more, he beat him at his own baseline game, grinding him down with great authority and tenacity.
There are still two big clay tournaments to come, and the Spaniard is still favourite to win them both, considering the slightly higher altitude conditions in Madrid. But Novak has definitely a huge chance now also at Roland Garros. His fitness is remarkable and he could probably keep up the same level of play in a five-set match.
Regarding the rest of the season, it suddenly looks wide open. After what we've seen in Madrid, both Djokovic and Federer are capable of beating Nadal on grass and hard. His situation is not easy - he will not be able to gain any ranking points during the summer and it would take an out of this world - effort just to defend his results from last year.
Of course, one should never underestimate the incredible fighting spirit of Rafa- if anyone can deal with such pressure, it's him. However, what we saw in Madrid could be an indication of a throne shift sooner than we expected.