Novak Djokovic has received so many Grand Slam singles titles in so many various methods, it’s getting extraordinarily troublesome to maintain observe of them.
Djokovic, a Serb, additional solidified his repute as the best participant of the trendy period on Sunday with a scientific, straight-sets win over Daniil Medvedev of Russia. Floating throughout the courtroom and swinging his racket with an ease and style that high gamers a decade youthful, and much more junior, can principally solely dream about, Djokovic took benefit of a flat begin from Medvedev, then outlasted his buddy in an epic second set and eventually took aside his Monte Carlo neighbor, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3.
He did it on an Arthur Ashe Stadium courtroom the place he spent most of his profession enjoying the villain in matches in opposition to underdogs or longtime crowd favorites like Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Sunday was nothing like that. The practically 24,000 spectators welcomed him with a large roar, then showered him with the largest one when Medvedev dumped a shot into the online to present Djokovic the title that has been surprisingly exhausting for the best hardcourts participant within the sport’s historical past to win.
“This implies the world to me,” he stated to the gang simply earlier than lifting the trophy for the fourth time of his profession.
His flip from foil to protagonist had begun two years in the past, close to the tip of a really totally different ultimate in opposition to the identical opponent. On that day, Djokovic walked onto the courtroom attempting to develop into the primary man in additional than 50 years to win all 4 Grand Slam match titles in a calendar yr.
When Medvedev’s straight-sets upset win was all however sealed on a day when Djokovic was uncharacteristically flat, a stadium crammed to witness historical past swaddled Djokovic with a type of love he had by no means felt in New York. He sobbed in his chair because it washed over him earlier than the ultimate sport.
Djokovic missed the U.S. Open final yr due to the federal authorities’s rule prohibiting overseas guests who had not been vaccinated in opposition to Covid-19 to enter the nation. He set foot on American soil for the primary time in practically two years in mid-August to play the Western & Southern Open close to Cincinnati. He shortly realized that the love he felt through the 2021 U.S. Open ultimate had not faded.
Djokovic wanted each little bit of that assist Sunday, when, whereas seemingly on cruise management halfway via the second set, Medvedev reverted to type. After a mistake-filled set and a half, the Russian with arms like an octopus and the legs of a gazelle cleaned the errors out of his sport, ramped up his serve and did that very efficient imitation of a backboard that has beforehand lifted him to the top of the game.
Factors that lasted longer than 20 photographs turned routine in a match with its share of 30-shot rallies, and instantly Djokovic’s legs started to go, like a boxer jarred from a shot to the jaw. He leaned on his racket between factors, gasping for breath. He rubbed his head with a bag of ice between video games.
Serving to remain within the second set at 5-6, he stretched his legs earlier than tossing balls within the air. He heaved as he ran for photographs, saving set level with two tender volleys.
“He was drained,” Medvedev stated. “I used to be throughout him.”
On to a decisive tiebreaker they went, and even that, like so many factors on this online game of a match, went backwards and forwards. Medvedev received inside two factors of drawing even, profitable a lung-searing drop shot alternate. However then, like he had so many instances earlier than, Djokovic performed three consecutive mistake-free factors.
When Medvedev bunted a backhand into the online, 104 minutes after the set started, Djokovic had gained a two-set lead, a bonus he has coughed up solely as soon as in his profession, 13 years in the past, earlier than he became himself into the practically indomitable participant he would develop into.
He sauntered slowly to his chair, grabbed his bag and headed off the courtroom for a bathroom break. Medvedev took off his shirt and known as for a coach, who massaged his shoulders, although after what he had endured through the course of the earlier hour and a half, a mind therapeutic massage was what he actually wanted.
When he returned to the courtroom, Djokovic was floating as soon as extra, the adrenaline of one other championship and file in sight delivering a rediscovered spring in his step. He flew towards the online, benefiting from an opponent who performs so deep within the courtroom he typically seems to be like he’s about to hit the again wall on his backswing. Nobody was going to take this candy return to America away from him this time.
It appears each time Djokovic performs a match nowadays he units a file in males’s tennis, and normally he’s besting one in every of his personal. He started the yr in Melbourne, the place he received a file tenth Australian Open title. Sunday introduced his twenty fourth Grand Slam singles title, breaking his males’s file of 23 that he set on the French Open in June.
On Friday he performed in a file forty seventh Grand Slam semifinal, yet one more than Federer. Three weeks in the past he received a file thirty ninth title at a Masters 1000 match, the occasions just under the extent of the Grand Slams. On Sunday he performed in his thirty sixth Grand Slam ultimate.
His efficiency on the U.S. Open assured even earlier than he took the courtroom for his ultimate matches that he would get up Monday morning because the No. 1 participant on the earth, reclaiming the highest spot from Carlos Alcaraz, the 20-year-old Spanish sensation. That may mark his 390th week on the high of the game. He already had that file, too.
“What are you continue to doing right here,” Medvedev, 27, stated to Djokovic, 36, who has been retaining him from profitable titles since he first broke into the highest ranges of tennis six years in the past.
Toweling off in a nook of the courtroom earlier than serving for match level, catching his breath for one ultimate time, Djokovic regarded on the followers within the entrance rows and nodded his head, his eyes vast. Moments later he was kneeling on the courtroom, his shoulders shaking as tears flowed as soon as extra. When he rose he walked over to the stands and lifted his daughter, Tara, who’s 6, and barely capable of sit via a tennis match. She typically colours in books on the ground of stadiums whereas her father is enjoying.
“Tennis shouldn’t be actually her factor,” he stated with a smile and quizzical look earlier this yr.
Then got here the embraces with the remainder of his household within the stands. When he returned to the courtroom, he swapped out his sweaty equipment for a shirt with an image of him and Kobe Bryant, his sports activities hero, buddy, and typically mentor, whose jersey quantity was 24. That quantity was on the again of his shirt.
“It’s a pity about Wimbledon, couple of factors both means” stated his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, lamenting Djokovic’s lone loss in 28 Grand Slam matches this yr, in 5 units to Carlos Alcaraz in July. Ivanisevic stated he and Djokovic by no means talked about that loss after that day. “That’s what makes him nice.”
Days earlier than this match, Djokovic mirrored on the heartbreaking however heartwarming day two years in the past when Medvedev stopped him one match shy of maybe the last word tennis achievement. He nonetheless felt the heat from the New York crowd that had lastly taken to him.
“They love sport they usually additionally love when they’re experiencing one thing particular,” he stated. “They genuinely backed me up and wished me to win and wished me to make historical past.”
They needed to wait two years to see it, however on Sunday they lastly did.