SHANGHAI -- Roger Federer hopes he can stay at the top of the men's game next season. By the look of this year's disappointing Masters Cup, tennis chiefs will have their fingers crossed too.
The end-of-year showpiece fizzled badly after the exit of the former number one and 13-time Grand Slam champion, with Serbia's Novak Djokovic beating Nikolay Davydenko in a one-sided final.
With Rafael Nadal out injured, it was a low-key end for the tournament, which now leaves Shanghai for London, where it will be renamed the World Tour Final.
Federer had reached all three previous finals at the purpose-built Qi Zhong Stadium, playing some sublime tennis as he won the 2006 and 2007 editions to take his total to four.
In 2005, the Swiss treated Shanghai fans to one of the greatest title matches of all time as he lost in five sets to David Nalbandian while struggling with an ankle injury.
There was similar drama in his defeat to Britain's Andy Murray this year as Federer, struggling with a back problem, went down fighting in one of the matches of the season.
The performances highlight how the Swiss has not only dominated men's tennis in recent years, but also lit up the stage.
However, as the 27-year-old's powers start to fade, his absence will increasingly be felt by fans, tournament organizers and sponsors.
In Sunday's final, the Qi Zhong Stadium crowd showed their indifference with a Mexican wave as Djokovic served for the match.
"They want to have a longer match, a more exciting match, and probably a longer final, right? So I don't blame them at all," said the Serb.
Federer lost the top ranking after 237 weeks in August and is now in severe danger of slipping to third, with Djokovic ending the year just 10 points behind with his victory here.
Federer has lost to nine different challengers this year as his four-year dominance of the sport finally slipped, winning only three tournaments along with the US Open.
However, at least two people were happy there was no Federer on Sunday: the players.
"I'm not thinking about him at this moment, really," said Djokovic, as Davydenko joked he finally had the edge over the man who has beaten him 12 times.
"Federer was not in the semi-finals and I was. Also, I was in the final," he smiled.
"Federer didn't win a Masters event this year. I won one in Miami. OK, he won the US Open, but who cares about the US Open?"