Novak Djokovic has gained 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 status as the best participant of the fashionable period on Sunday with a medical, straight-sets win over Daniil Medvedev of Russia. Floating throughout the courtroom and swinging his racket with an ease and beauty that prime gamers a decade youthful, and much more junior, can largely solely dream about, Djokovic took benefit of a flat begin from Medvedev, then outlasted his buddy in an epic second set and at last 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 towards underdogs or longtime crowd favorites like Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Sunday was nothing like that. The practically 24,000 spectators welcomed him with an enormous roar, then showered him with the most important one when Medvedev dumped a shot into the online to provide Djokovic the title that has been surprisingly laborious for the best hardcourts participant within the sport’s historical past to win.
“This implies the world to me,” he mentioned to the group 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 completely different closing towards the identical opponent. On that day, Djokovic walked onto the courtroom attempting to turn into the primary man in additional than 50 years to win all 4 Grand Slam event 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 form 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 international guests who had not been vaccinated towards 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 closing had not light.
Djokovic wanted each little bit of that assist Sunday, when, whereas seemingly on cruise management halfway by the second set, Medvedev reverted to kind. 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 pictures grew to become routine in a match with its share of 30-shot rallies, and out of the blue 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 pictures, saving set level with two smooth volleys.
“He was drained,” Medvedev mentioned. “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 obtained inside two factors of drawing even, profitable a lung-searing drop shot trade. 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 turn 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 referred to 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 report 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 usually appears 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 event lately he units a report in males’s tennis, and normally he’s besting one among his personal. He started the yr in Melbourne, the place he gained a report tenth Australian Open title. Sunday introduced his twenty fourth Grand Slam singles title, breaking his males’s report of 23 that he set on the French Open in June.
On Friday he performed in a report forty seventh Grand Slam semifinal, yet another than Federer. Three weeks in the past he gained a report thirty ninth title at a Masters 1000 event, the occasions just under the extent of the Grand Slams. On Sunday he performed in his thirty sixth Grand Slam closing.
His efficiency on the U.S. Open assured even earlier than he took the courtroom for his closing matches that he would get up Monday morning because the No. 1 participant on the planet, reclaiming the highest spot from Carlos Alcaraz, the 20-year-old Spanish sensation. That may mark his 390th week on the prime of the game. He already had that report, too.
“What are you continue to doing right here,” Medvedev, 27, mentioned to Djokovic, 36, who has been holding 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 closing time, Djokovic seemed 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 by a tennis match. She usually colours in books on the ground of stadiums whereas her father is enjoying.
“Tennis isn’t actually her factor,” he mentioned 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 package for a shirt with an image of him and Kobe Bryant, his sports activities hero, buddy, and generally mentor, whose jersey quantity was 24. That quantity was on the again of his shirt.
Days earlier than this event, 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 and so they additionally love when they’re experiencing one thing particular,” he mentioned. “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.