Fifteen hours before play at the Australian Open was due to start, everyone finally knew where they stood.
Delivered in a soft but firm voice, the judge dismissed Novak Djokovic’s application to stay on in Melbourne to compete, and for good measure awarded costs against him.
And so came to an end a saga that has tarnished all associated with it, going back to that tin-eared social media post of January 4, in which the player triumphantly announced he was departing.
A saga dating back to that tin-eared social media post of January 4 has finally come to an end
Serbian star Djokovic lost his last-ditch appeal on Sunday and will now be deported
That was not his first mistake in all this and it was not his last, but it was up there among the biggest of all, telling the world that he had found a way.
It woke the wider Australian establishment to what was happening, and gave them time to respond, belatedly, and realise how all this might play out in an election year.
Quite legitimately you could recognise the political opportunism that ensued, and recognise that Djokovic was not a grievous threat to anyone’s health, and yet still recognise that he has behaved arrogantly and deplorably.
He will remain a hero (and martyr) to some, but to many others the best player ever to wield a racket has trashed his reputation beyond repair.
Djokovic is not the only one to emerge weakened. His enablers at Tennis Australia still have many questions to answer. It would be particularly interesting to know, for example, how many times he had exemption applications rejected before the December 10 deadline, and what exactly happened after that.
The Serb had his visa revoked again on Friday amid public anger in Australia
Much of this will emerge, but not in the time it takes for security guards to drive the nine-times champion to Melbourne airport to make his humiliating departure.
All this could have been avoided if a simple no-jab, no play rule had been introduced. It would still have been a Grand Slam worthy of the name, as the vast majority of players are now inoculated.
But Djokovic thought he could work the system without compromising his beliefs, or having to serve an inconvenient and unpleasant quarantine over the festive period.
He was counting on the culture that exists in tennis that things happen differently for the top players in tennis, those who sell the tickets. Turns out that favourable treatment only goes so far.
He will have much to contemplate on the way home. Djokovic is not an unthinking man, nor an ungenerous one, but few athletes have ever been worse served by the lack of wise heads around them.
The world No 1 had been practicing, but he will now not participate in Melbourne
He will remain a hero (and martyr) to some, but to many others the best player ever to wield a racket has trashed his reputation beyond repair
What he might ask himself, above all, is how he wishes to be remembered, eventually. As the greatest male player of all time or a totemic figure for a movement that emerged during a particular turbulent period of history? Both maybe.
He also needs to figure out where he goes from here in terms of his playing career. His tournament options are narrowed and complicated by his refusal to be vaccinated, but it is not true – as has been suggested – that these are all but extinguished.
There remains no mandate to be jabbed on the ATP Tour so he does have places he can play, but there are significant barriers of his own making. The United States looks especially problematic at present.
Given that Djokovic keeps getting in his own way – his 2020 US Open expulsion, for example – the competition to see who ends up with the most Grand Slam titles is still very much alive.
In pure playing terms Daniil Medvedev now becomes Australian Open favourite. Yet the sometimes volatile Russian must now deal with the pressure of such expectation for the first time. How he does that is difficult to predict.
Djokovic has won the tournament nine times, but will not get to defend his title this year
Rafael Nadal is the only man left in the draw to have lifted the trophy before. He might not be the best hard court player out there, but he certainly knows how to win over two weeks and how to handle all that comes with it.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility that by the end of the French Open he might be two ahead on 22.
If that turns out to be the case then Djokovic, the superior all round player, will only have himself to blame.