US OPEN 2018 : Novak Djokovic overtakes Roger Federer with his US Open victoryCreated On: Sep 11, 2018
Novak Djokovic's wall-like defensive skills were on full display on the Arthur Ashe as he defeated Juan Martin Del Potro in straight sets to equal Pete Sampras's record of 14 majors, with only Roger Federer(20) and Rafael Nadal(17) ahead of him.
This year's United States Open saw the slowest courts ever, what with the organizers reportedly tweaking the surface to favour the American players. While the players from the home country did not seem to be getting any added advantage, the changed conditions certainly seemed to favour the Serbian's game, the ensuing long rallies taking the steam out of Del Potro who, on this particular Sunday found his booming forehands and huge serves being unexpectedly returned when many of them shouldn't have been.
However, the slow and glum conditions bothered even the eventual champion at one point, as he grinded out a 20 minute service game, involving never ending deuces and an extra loud crowd, sounding even louder with the roof closed, rooting for his opponent. Del Potro making his first appearance at the Finals of the last Grand Slam of the year nine years after his only major victory at this very venue had the support of the spectators behind him. Apart from the blue and white clad Argentine fans the New York tennis lovers wanted to see the most lovable player on the circuit win, someone they knew had come back to the sport after four wrist surgeries, three of them on his left wrist.
And yet, Del Potro was not the only player of the night having an inspiring story behind him. Djokovic, this time last year was struggling in rehab with a nagging elbow injury and was forced to go under the knife at the beginning of this year, his ranking dropping to a lowly 22, his future uncertain, his game lacking the killer instinct that had seen him claim 12 majors during his peak years. An unexpected victory atWimbledon this year propelled him to a form that we had associated with the Serbian a few years back, and he made full utilization of it, winning back to back Grand Slams, stamping his comeback to the highest level of the sport.
In a match that saw many breaks of serve, it was ironical that a major Novak hold in the middle of set 2 was the turning point, one which tilted the scales strongly in the former World No.1's favour. Djokovic had drawn first blood in the set, breaking the Argentine in the 3rdgame to 2-1 up, aided by Del Potro's forehand misfiring on more than one occasion in the game. However, he pulled things back in the 6thgame, with three crushing forehands that his opponent had no answer to, and secured the break back to level things up. A love hold and deuce on Djokovic's serve later, it seemed that he had finally found his foothold in the match, doing what he does best, firing forehands down the line. Still, 20 minutes and a plethora of deuces later, two errors from the Argentine allowed his competitor to hold at 4 all. Not long after, a tie break came up, where a single mini-break caused by a Delpo forehand slamming into the net was all Djokovic required to take it 7-4.
The set lasted 95-minutes, a good 16 minutes longer than the Women's singles Final played out on Ashe the day before. As the 31-year old went 2 sets to love up, the writing was on the wall for Del Potro, and a comeback seemed almost impossible. A late surge in the third, as he rallied to get back on serve in the fifth game after being broken in the previous game, did nothing more than increase the crowd's excitement. The Serb broke back in the eight game, as Del Potro chose the worst time to double fault for the first time in the match, handing his opponent two break points. He needed only one as a 24-shot rally later the score read 5-3 with the 13-time champion to serve for his 14thin the next game. No further surprises happened and the match was wrapped up 6-3 7-6(4) 6-3 by Novak Djokovic. By this time, the Argentine had little left in his tanks, the grueling rallies wringing any and everything out of him. Additionally, his own weaponry, the big serve, was being returned more often than he would have liked to, and he was being sucked into playing it Novak's way, long and hard. Even in the first game, which involved just the one break of serve, Delpo saw 17% of his serves being unreturned compared to the 41% throughout the rest of the tournament.
He had a smile on his face as he embraced Djokovic at the net, but broke down into tears once he got a moment to himself, on his chair."It's not easy to speak right now but I love you too, guys," Del Potro said at the trophy ceremony."So happy to be playing in the final against this magnificent idol. He knows that's he's one player that I want to watch winning titles. Of course I'm sad because I'd lose, but I'm happy for him and his team too."He added "I never gave up during my wrist problems. I was trying to fix all my injuries to be here once again and I got it after nine years, which is amazing to me because the US Open is my favorite tournament on tour. I am very proud for that."
Novak Djokovic showed great sportsman spirit in consoling his dejected competitor just before the ceremony started. Before receiving the trophy from 4-time major champion John McEnroe he said,"To the support of loved ones: my kids, my wife, my team of people that has been there with me through difficult times as well. When I had the surgery of elbow earlier this year, I could truly understand what Juan Martin was going through. Difficult times, but you learn from an adversary and when you're down. I try to take the best out of myself in those moments."
Novak will climb to the 3rdspot in the rankings after Nadal and Federer, the rankings reflecting the Big Three of tennis after a long gap. He is currently second in the race to ATP World Tour and with two consecutive majors under his belt, the Serbian seems to be back to his best!