Novak Djokovic equalled Pete Sampras’ total of 14 Grand Slam titles with a commanding triumph, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-3, over Juan Martin del Potro in the final of the US Open.
The victory restores the Serbian’s position inside the top three of the ATP rankings and moves him to within three Grand Slam titles of Rafael Nadal’s 17.
For del Potro, it will be a defeat that stings, and he was visibly emotional at the conclusion of the match. His formidable forehand came unstuck against the peerless defense of the former world number one.
The match was played under the roof in the Arthur Ashe Stadium as the weather took a turn for the worst in New York and it made for a cacophony of noise, with the Tandil Twelve roaring on the Argentine from the get-go.
It added intrigue to a match that had threatened to run away from del Potro when he found himself a set and a break down. Until then Djokovic was zen-like in his approach and it was his irritation with the crowd that offered the Argentine a route back into the final.
“It felt like a football match with all the Argentinian fans here and all the Serbian fans here, but the atmosphere was amazing,” said Djokovic as he collected his second Grand Slam title of the year.
Indeed, del Potro would be forgiven for scratching his head at the manner in which Djokovic stole the opening set.
Ripping through his forehand, he rung up triple game point for 4-4 but inexplicably gifted the next five points to hand the Serbian the opportunity to serve for the first set. Djokovic obliged and he set about disarming the Argentine immediately in set two.
Squandering two break points in del Potro’s opening service game, he made amends with a service break to 30 as he continued to show incredible defensive awareness to neutralize the power of the Argentine.
Vital second set
Del Potro was helpless, but he was afforded a route back into the match when he broke back in the sixth game of the set and fashioned three break points as Djokovic battled relentlessly to keep the set within his grasp. An 18-minute service hold was required from the serial champion.
A tiebreak would follow and del Potro’s task was made even harder when Djokovic prevailed by the single mini-break, closing out a 95-minute set that ought to have damaged the Argentine between the ears.
If ever there was a rally - of which there plenty grueling ones - that encapsulated the peerless retrieving skills of Djokovic it was the deuce point in the fourth game of the third set. Appearing to be down and out of the exchange he produced a terrific defensive lob and took control of the rally with a pair of smart overheads. Djokovic, like the gutsy champion he is, steadied himself and converted his break point in the very next exchange.
Del Potro would break back but the writing was on the wall when the Serbian broke in the eighth game to serve for his 14th Grand Slam crown.
It won’t be forgotten that he equaled his childhood heroes major count on a shot that has been his Achilles heel over the years: the overhead.