Novak Djokovic truly saved the best for the last as he lifted his third US Open title and 14th Slam overall in imperious fashion by seeing off Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-3 in their summit clash at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York on Sunday evening.
On a rainy day in the Big Apple, Djokovic—arguably the greatest returner of all-time—faced off against the Tower of Tandil and came out on top, even if the scoreline didn’t tell the complete story.
Winning the first set was always key for the sixth seeded Djokovic had lost just two matches at a Slam after clinching the opener and his opponent was belting out gigantic serves after another to keep the spry 31-year-old on his toes throughout.
The Serb, in stark contrast, looked in trouble in his first few service games yet managed to hold, while Del Potro conceded just two points in his first three games.
However, all those statistics were proved to be irrelevant as Djokovic drew first blood by breaking in the eight set.
The crowd was firmly behind the underdog del Potro but the two-time champion was undeterred as he served out the set to take a definitive lead in the tie.
From then on, it was always going to be an uphill battle for the 2009 champion, but credit to del Potro for making a fight of it in a gruelling second set that lasted 95 minutes.
Djokovic got an early break but his 6’6 opponent didn’t throw in the towel and broke right back to keep it anyone’s set at 3-3.
Then came the defining moment in the tie.
The Serb possesses one of the finest serves on the tour, but he was pushed to the very limit in the seventh game that lasted a mind-boggling 20 minutes.
Eventually the sixth seed prevailed to hold but yet, del Potro kept up his dogged resistance and would ensure the set went to a tie-break.
His formidable forehand, a massive weapon, failed him when he needed it most and a ruthless Djokovic seized the advantage to take a two sets to love lead.
The result of the tie was effectively beyond any doubt, even if Djokovic’s opponent never made it easy for him in the final set.
Del Potro was broken in the third game as well and while he did break back immediately, it was only a matter of time before his Serbian opponent wrested the initiative back.
The Argentine double faulted for the first time in the match to hand his opponent two break points, and Djokovic would require just one to take a 5-3 lead.
Closing out the match was a cinch for the Serb and as he collapsed in a heap after yet another del Potro error, his place in the all-time greats was
Level with his idol Pete Sampras on the all-time Slams list and behind only his rivals Roger Federer (20) and Rafael Nadal (17), Djokovic is in elite company indeed.
2018 has definitely been his year, even if he doesn’t end it as the World No.1 for two of the four Slams on offer have been his and there can be no doubt that the 31-year-old is back to his best.