By Abhishek Mehrotra
You can read Part 1 here.
Tennis fans could not have asked for a better climax to the season as Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic played out a dazzling final under the lights inside O2 Arena. Ultimately, it was Djokovic who won 7-6 7-5 to celebrate finishing a second successive season on top with his second Finals win.
Although Federer would have been disappointed with his loss, especially after taking the lead in both sets, and holding two set points in the second - it was a superb year for the Swiss as well.
He won his first Grand Slam, Wimbledon, in more than two years, and held the number one ranking long enough to pass Pete Sampras' record of 286 weeks at the top, ultimately reaching 302 before being overtaken by Djokovic.
2012 saw four different Grand Slam champions on the men's side including a breakthrough US Open win for Andy Murray. There was also a maiden ATP 1000 Masters triumph for David Ferrer while Juan Martin del Potro returned to the top echelon and there were consistent, if not dazzling, performances from Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych and Janko Tipsarevic.
In the second of two parts we rate players from six through ten.
[x] denotes 2011 year-end ranking.
6 Tomas Berdych  - 7 (4,605)
Titles (2): Montpellier, Stockholm
Even though he won two titles, Berdych's most memorable match was at Flushing Meadows, where he blitzed through Roger Federer in four sets in the quarter-final.
Overall though, it was a staccato year for the Czech.
He seemed to have Nadal's number in the Australian Open quarter-final over the first set and a bit, but was unable to maintain the quality of his play as the Spaniard won in four. A fourth-round loss to del Potro at the French Open was followed quickly by a shock first-round reversal at the hands of Ernests Gulbis.
Berdych revived somewhat in the summer, winning the Winston-Salem Open before making a run to the last four of the US Open. If he has to break into the top four however, Berdych needs to match the top four's unerring consistency. Some variety in the game would be useful too - the lack of it hurt him when he lost to Murray in the US Open semi-final in heavily gusty conditions.
7 Juan Martin del Potro  - 8 (4,480)
Titles (4): Basel, Marseille, Oeiras, Vienna
Del Potro seemed to be destined for the top when he beat Roger Federer to lift the US Open title in 2009. Three years and a career-threatening wrist injury later, the Tower of Tandil finally seems to be on his way to fulfilling that destiny.
Del Potro beat both Federer (Basel, London) and Djokovic (London Olympics) this year, and swept to four titles - rising from 11th to seventh over the course of the year. By the end of 2012, the snap in his forehand seemed to be back to its fearsome 2009 state, and his movement better than at any time after his injury.
Of the top 10, Del Potro's 2013 exploits should be the most exciting to follow.
8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga  - 5.5 (3,490)
Titles (2): Qatar, Metz
While Del Potro gradually played his way into top form, Tsonga seemed to regress in 2012. Two titles bookended a disappointing season for the Frenchman, during which he failed to build on the promise of 2011.
Tsonga failed to beat any of the top four (although he did hold four match points against Djokovic in the French Open quarter-final), and except Wimbledon, couldn't reach the semi-final of any of the Grand Slams or Masters tournaments.
After Federer, the 27-year-old is the most stylish player in the uppermost tier of the game, but unlike the Swiss, hasn't been able to combine that style with substance. With del Potro, Ferrer on the rise, and the top four showing few signs of waning - the next year could be very tough indeed for tennis' Ali.
9 Janko Tipsarevic  - 7.5 (2,990)
Titles (1): Stuttgart
Tipsarevic came out of virtually nowhere to finish 9th at the end of the 2011. And even more impressively, he managed to hold on to it this year.
Unlike his countryman Djokovic, Tipsarevic doesn't pack as much punch, and consequently does not really have the ability to challenge those in front of him on a regular basis.
But he did a commendable job of holding off the likes of Nicolas Almagro, Milos Raonic and Juan Monaco to eke out a top 10 position. His most memorable result was beating Djokovic in Madrid while his biggest disappointment would have been the loss to Ferrer in the US Open quarters - a match he came within two points of winning.
10 Richard Gasquet  - 7 (2, 515)
Titles (1): Bangkok
Perhaps the most surprising entrant in the top 10. Gasquet was largely under the radar through most of the year although he replicated his career best performances by reaching the fourth round at the Australian, French and US Opens.
The Frenchman, once touted to be the torchbearer of his generation, challenged for only one major title - the Rogers Cup Masters in Toronto, but was brushed aside in straight sets by Novak Djokovic.
That said, Gasquet was good enough to improve on his 2011 ranking by nine places, although that probably had as much to do with the patchy form of those below him as it did with the 26-year-old's own form.