Novak Djokovic has won so many Grand Slam singles titles in so many different ways that it becomes extremely difficult to keep track of them.
Djokovic, a Serb, further cemented his reputation as the greatest player of the modern era on Sunday with a clinical, straight-sets win over Russia’s Daniil Medvedev. Floating across the court and swinging his racquet with an ease and grace that top players a decade younger, and younger, could barely dream of, Djokovic took advantage of a flat start from Medvedev, then outlasted his friend in an epic second set and eventually unseated his Monte Carlo neighbor, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3.
He did it on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court where he spent most of his career playing the villain in matches against underdogs or longtime crowd favorites like Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Sunday is nothing like that. A crowd of around 24,000 greeted him with a roar, then showered him with the biggest of a day full of them when Medvedev smashed a shot into the net to hand Djokovic the title which was surprisingly difficult for the greatest hardcourts player sport. history to win.
The transition from villain to adversary began two years ago, near the end of a strange finale against the same adversary. That day, Djokovic walked onto the court trying to become the first man in over 50 years to win all four Grand Slam tournament titles in a calendar year.
When Medvedev’s straight-sets upset win was sealed on a day when Djokovic was uncharacteristically flat, a stadium packed to witness history showered Djokovic with a kind of love he had never felt in New York. She was sobbing in her seat as he washed her before the last game.
Djokovic missed the US Open last year because of a federal government rule barring foreign visitors who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 from entering the country. He set foot on American soil for the first time in nearly two years in mid-August to play the Western & Southern Open near Cincinnati. He quickly realized that the love he felt during the 2021 US Open final did not fade.
Djokovic needed every bit of that support on Sunday, when, while seemingly on cruise control midway through the second set, Medvedev returned to form. After an error-filled set and a half, the Russian with arms like an octopus and legs like a gazelle cleaned up the mistakes in his game, strengthened his serve and produced a very effective imitation of a backboard which previously lifted him to the top of the sport.
Points lasting longer than 20 shots became routine in a match with its share of 30-shot rallies, and Djokovic’s legs suddenly began to buckle, like a boxer broken from a shot to the jaw. . He leaned on his racket between points, panting. He wipes his head with a bag of ice between games.
Serving to stay in the second set at 5-6, he stretched his legs before throwing balls in the air. He sighed as he ran for shots, saving set point with two soft volleys.
They went to a decisive tiebreaker, and even that, like so many points in this video game of a match, went back and forth. Medvedev got within two points of the draw, winning a lung-busting drop shot exchange. But then, as he has so many times before, Djokovic played three consecutive points without making a mistake.
When Medvedev backhanded into the net, 104 minutes into the set, Djokovic took a two-set lead, an advantage he coughed up only once in his career, 13 years ago, before he became virtually unshakable. he will be a player.
He slowly went to his seat, grabbed his bag and left the court to take a bathroom break. Medvedev took off his shirt and called a trainer, who massaged his shoulders, but after what he had been through for the past hour and a half, a brain massage was what he really needed.
When he returned to the court, Djokovic was floating again, the adrenaline of another championship and record in sight, bringing a rediscovered spring to his step. He flies toward the net, taking advantage of an opponent who plays so deep down the court that he often looks like he’s going to hit the back wall with his backswing. No one is going to take a sweet return to America from him this time.
It seems like every time Djokovic plays a tournament these days he’s setting a record in men’s tennis, and he’s usually beating one of his own. He began the year in Melbourne, where he won a record 10th Australian Open title. Sunday brought home his 24th Grand Slam singles title, breaking his men’s record of 23 he set at the French Open in June.
On Friday he played in a record 47th Grand Slam semifinal, one more than Federer. Three weeks ago he won a record 39th title in a Masters 1000 tournament, the events below the level of the Grand Slams. On Sunday he played in his 36th Grand Slam final.
His performance at the US Open guaranteed even before he took the court for his final matches that he would wake up on Monday morning as the No. 1 player in the world, taking back the top spot from Carlos Alcaraz, the 20-year-old Spanish sensation. That would mark his 390th week at the top of the sport. He now has that record too.