Novak Djokovic cruised to his second straight Grand Slam title Sunday night in New York, taking a third US Open crown with a convincing 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-3 victory over former champion Juan Martin Del Potro.
Ever since that Roger Federer match in the Cincinnati final, Djokovic has been on another dimension, and it was no different tonight, and other than those matches in the heat, he’s been awesomely good.
The Serb dominated Del Potro early, missing only four returns in the first 40 minutes of the match, pressuring the Argentine at every turn, just getting that extra ball back, that extra return of serve back. And it was working.
I thought Djokovic would really go after the weaker Delpo backhand, and he did. But the big guy’s backhand actually held up pretty darn well to test. What surprisingly didn’t was his forehand which really never got into full flight. (Or maybe that was just the Djokovic Effect?)
Things were going one-way as Djokovic led 6-3, 3-1, and that’s when Novak’s backhand started to spray. Delpo got his game going and moments later he broke back to level.
The crowd went into a frenzy. And the chants for Delpo grew louder. We had a match!
More chances for Delpo came in Novak’s next service game. But Djokovic saved three break threats during an epic 20-minute, 22-point eighth game.
With Delpo’s play on the rise, they went to a breaker and he grabbed an early 3-1 edge. Was the tide turning? Nope! Djokovic answered back winning six of the next seven points to take the second and all but put the match to bed.
After a 95-minute set, there wasn’t much hope of a Delpo comeback at this point.
In the third, Djokovic broke for a 3-1, but Delpo got it right back after a serve clock time warning rattled the Serb on break point.
Djokovic, though, was just too strong on the night. Moving around the court like a gazelle. Neutralizing the fearsome Delpo forehand, and forcing the issue at the net – he finished 28/37 at the net!
He took the last three games and collapsed to the court in a mix of relief and perhaps disbelief after what he went through the first four months.
This was a guy who was losing to Taro Daniel in Miami. And now he’s won two straight Grand Slams!
“If you told me in February this year when I got the surgery that I’ll win Wimbledon, US Open, and Cincinnati, would be hard to believe,” Djokovic said. “But at the same time there was always part of me that imagined and believed and hoped that I can get back on the desired level of tennis very soon.
“I expected, to be honest, quite frank, after surgery that I’ll be back on a high level quite fast. But, you know, it took me actually three, four months really. In that process, I learned a lot about myself, learned to be patient, which was never really a stronger side of me.
“But at the same time, you know, life showed me that it takes time for good things, it takes time to really build them, for things to fall into place, so you can center yourself, balance yourself and thrive. The last two months have been terrific.”
Djokovic’s title puts him at 14 Grand Slam titles, even with the great Pete Sampras who also won his 14th at age 31.
“Pete Sampras is one of the biggest legends ever to play the game,” added Djokovic. “He was my childhood idol. He was someone I was looking up to. The first actually thing I saw related to tennis on the TV was his first or second Wimbledon championship. That inspired me to start playing tennis.
“There is a lot of significance of me being now shoulder to shoulder in terms of Grand Slam wins with him. It’s truly incredible when you think about it. I watched him win one of his first Wimbledon championships, and I grew up playing and thinking that one day I’ll be able to do what he does. To actually be here, it’s a dream come true.”
And for a third time he’s won both Wimbledon and the US Open in the same year.
Del Potro was appearing in his first Grand Slam final in nine years when he won the US Open, the largest gap of anyone between finals. But the Argentine who advanced over a wounded Rafael Nadal on Friday, couldn’t duplicate the feat from 2009.
“I was crying till now,” Del Potro said. “I’m very sad for being a loser today. But Novak deserved to take the trophy. He played a great match, very smart game. I had my opportunities during second and third set.
“But I was playing almost at the limit all the time, looking for winners with my forehands, backhands, and I couldn’t make it because Novak were there every time.
“He’s a great champion. So I’m glad for him.”
Del Potro finished with just 31 winners and 47 unforced errors, or a -16 ratio. And that was hard to overcome.
“I take the risk with my forehands. I’ve been doing that all the match,” said Delpo. “Sometimes it go in, and sometimes I miss it. But it’s the only way to beat these kind of players. You have to be a perfect game during more than three hours. Sometimes you couldn’t make it. But my mistakes was because the level of Novak. He plays really well.
“Novak is too fast. His defense are pretty good. But I expected the game like we played today. When you have chances against the top guys, and you couldn’t make it, then they take advantage of the game. It’s really difficult to beat a player like Novak.
“But I did a big effort also, and I’m proud for that.”
And Delpo should be proud. And I think this bodes really well for him next year. Had this court played a little quicker like it did in 2009, maybe he wins tonight. But he’ll get another chance in a final because he genuinely wants it.
Next up for Djokovic will be a bid to chase down Nadal for the No. 1 ranking. And with Rafa out injured for the next month and Federer also likely taking time off, just a little over a 1,000 point behind, Djokovic is probably now the favorite to finish No. 1!
Novak finished the US Open winning 16 straight sets and he’s won 13 straight matches since that Canada loss.
And that’s all even more remarkable when you consider where his game was at just in April. Then again, this is exactly what pro tennis does. Once you think you have it figured out, here comes the next twist.
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