Laureus World Sportsman of the Year
Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic was recognised as the Sportsman of the Year, after a stunning 2011, when he won three Grand Slam events – the Australian Open, the U.S. Open and the Wimbledon Championships. He also wrested the sport’s No. 1 ranking from Rafael Nadal. Djokovic started 2012 in much the same fashion, beating Nadal in an epic 5-set thriller in the finals of the Australian Open. Reuters

Five hours, 53 minutes. That's how long it lasted.

The opening Grand Slam of the year was an epic battle in men's singles between the No. 1 seed, Novak Djokovic of Serbia, and the No. 2 seed, Rafael Nadal of Spain, in the Australian Open. And it didn't disappoint. On a long, warm, and humid evening at Melbourne Park, Nadal made a big comeback, but in the end Djokovic was too much.

We made history tonight, and unfortunately there couldn't be two winners, Djokovic said after accepting the championship trophy.

Djokovic, the Australian Open defending champion, beat Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5. It was the third straight Grand Slam final for Djokovic against Nadal. Djokovic stripped off his shirt and thrust his hands upward to celebrate his continuing Grand Slam dominance as of late. It was the world's No. 1 player's fifth major title -- and his third in Australia.

Djokovic was up in sets, 2-1, and appeared to have the match in control, but Nadal came back and seemed to be in position to end his losing streak to Djokovic.

Possibly the match of the season in the first Grand Slam of the season, said Chris McKendry, ESPN commentator, after the match.

Said ESPN's John McEnroe: That's gotta be the toughest defeat of [Nadal's] career.

McEnroe said Djokovic should have won in four sets, but that it was Nadal's sheer will that got him back in it. Nadal had a chance to put Djokovic away in the fifth set, but couldn't manage to hold on.

In their previous seven matches, the winner of the first set had gone on to win the match. Djokovic won the toss and wanted to serve, but he didn't claim the first set. Nadal took a 4-2 lead in the first set, but Djokovic, who changed racquets three times in the opening set, fought back to take a 5-4 lead. But Nadal won the first set, 7-5.

Nadal had never before lost a Grand Slam final after winning the first set.

Djokovic stormed out in the second set, up 5-2 before winning it 6-4, but the stage was already set for an epic battle as by the end of the second set the match had lasted two hours and 27 minutes.

By the end of the third set, Djokovic appeared to have the match under control, storming to a 6-2 set win.

Wrote Sports Illustrated at the end of the third set: The Serb lets out a roar and he's one set away from laying down another statement win against Nadal and defending his title here in Melbourne. When he plays like he did in that third set, he looks unbeatable.

It appeared to be over in the fourth set, as Nadal was down 3-4, 0-40. But he fought back and won the fourth set 7-6 and tied the match 2-2.