Novak Djokovic won the U.S. Open men’s final Sunday, cementing his place as one of the sport’s greatest players and fortifying his status as the athlete with its most men’s Grand Slam titles.
At 36, Djokovic is retirement age in professional tennis. Yet on Sunday afternoon, at a New York City park, he presented a master class on winning, his body never faltering, his resolve ice cold.
The numbers of the Serbian’s straight-sets win over Russian Daniil Medvedev, 27, may betray the nature of the final, an unwavering, point-by-point war between the best.
The younger player was far from steamrolled, but there were moments when it may have looked as if Medvedev had the older body of the two, his legs cold and short a step. He called a trainer out at one point in the match.
But it was, above all, Djokovic’s calm and concentration that prevailed during key points at Arthur Ashe Stadium, and he took the match 6-3, 7-6, 6-3.
The second-set tie break was a wrestling match neither would concede, with Medvedev appearing to change the momentum by winning a rally of mid-court half-volleys and drop shots to go up 5-4 in the tiebreaker.
Indeed, the Russian tried to bring the game to Djokovic, challenging him at the net, but Djokovic responded with sometimes perfect strokes, ultimately taking the tiebreaker and set, and setting himself up for the straight-sets win.
The third and final set was nearly all Djokovic highlights. Even when he lost a point, Djokovic had the crowd roaring. Up 5-2, he performed the near-splits diving for a ball unsuccessfully after moving Medvedev around the court at will with shotgun forehands.
The win may have been redemption for the champion, who lost to Medvedev in the 2021 U.S. Open final.
That Russian thwarted Djokovic’s attempt to take all four major championships in a calendar year, a rare feat last accomplished in men’s open competition by Rod Laver in 1969.
The Serbian’s win on Sunday earned him another year that was just short of a Grand Slam. In July, he lost an epic, five-set final to Carlos Alcaraz, 20, on Wimbledon’s perennial ryegrass.
At the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Friday, Djokovic dispatched American Blake Shelton in straight.
The last American to win a singles title at Flushing Meadows, the Queens city park that’s been the home of the tournament since 1978, was Andy Roddick in 2003.
In 2008, Djokovic announced his campaign for a place in tennis history by winning at the Australian Open, a victory that launched 15 years and counting of near domination of the game, a run that may have gone unchallenged sans his rivalry with another history maker, contemporary Rafael Nadal.
The Spaniard announced earlier this year, amid injury, that 2024 would likely see his formal retirement from the game.
Djokovich first won the U.S. Open in 2011.
His last major championship win, at the French in June, was Djokovic’s 23rd, elevating him to the top of the list of men with the most Grand Slam titles after he tied with Nadal’s 22 at the Australian in January.
That French Open title was the 23rd major singles title for Djokovic, breaking a tie with long-time rival Rafael Nadal, winner of 22 Grand Slam titles.
Throughout Djokovic’s long career, his name regularly appeared in the same sentence with 20-time major winner Roger Federer and Nadal. Federer retired last year from major competition and Nadal could be hanging it up shortly.