Djokovic wins US Open for 14th ma­jor

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

THE US Open fi­nal sud­denly ap­peared to be slip­ping away from No­vak Djokovic. He dropped three con­sec­u­tive games. He was bark­ing at him­self, at his en­tourage, at a crowd vo­cally sup­port­ing his op­po­nent, Juan Martin del Potro. He was, in short, out of sorts.

And then came Sun­day’s piv­otal game, a 20-minute, 22-point epic. Three times, del Potro was a point from break­ing and earn­ing the right to serve to make it a set apiece. Three times, Djokovic steeled him­self. Even­tu­ally, he seized that game — and del Potro’s best chance to make a match of it.

A year af­ter miss­ing the U.S. Open be­cause of an in­jured right el­bow that would re­quire surgery, Djokovic showed that he is un­ques­tion­ably back at his best and back at the top of ten­nis. His re­turns and de­fense-to-of­fense skills as im­pec­ca­ble as ever, Djokovic col­lected his 14th Grand Slam ti­tle and sec­ond in a row by get­ting through ev­ery cru­cial mo­ment for a 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-3 vic­tory over 2009 cham­pion del Potro at Flush­ing Mead­ows.

“There was al­ways part of me that imag­ined and be­lieved and hoped that I can get back (to) the de­sired level of ten­nis very soon,” said Djokovic, whose op­er­a­tion was in Fe­bru­ary. “But at the same time, 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.”

This was Djokovic’s third cham­pi­onship in New York, along with those in 2011 and 2015. Add in the tro­phies he has earned at six Aus­tralian Opens, one French Open and four Wim­ble­dons, most re­cently in July, and the 31-year-old Serb pulled even with Pete Sam­pras for the third-most ma­jors among men, trail­ing only Roger Fed­erer’s 20 and Rafael Nadal’s 17. “”He’s my idol. Pete, I love you,” Djokovic said. Fed­erer lost in the fourth round in New York, while Nadal re­tired from his semi­fi­nal against del Potro be­cause of a bad right knee. That put the 29-year-old Ar­gen­tine back in a Grand Slam fi­nal for the first time since his break­through nine years ago, a come­back for a guy who had four wrist op­er­a­tions in the in­terim.

“I be­lieve he’ll be here again with the cham­pion’s tro­phy. I re­ally do,” said Djokovic, who gave his pal a hug at the net, and then went over to con­sole del Potro as he wiped away tears at his side­line seat.

Del Potro spoke this week about the low point, in 2015, when he con­sid­ered quit­ting the sport. But sup­ported by a dozen or so friends from back home, whose “Ole!” cho­ruses rang around the arena, he climbed up the rank­ings to a ca­reer­high No. 3 by thun­der­ing his 100 mph (160 kph) fore­hands and 135 mph (215 kph) serves.

Those pro­duce free points against so many foes. Not against Djokovic, who al­ways seemed to have all the an­swers — and who said he con­vinced him­self that all of those “Oles” were ac­tu­ally peo­ple calling out his own nick­name, “Nole.”

Djokovic was bet­ter than del Potro on their many lengthy ex­changes, us­ing his trade­mark body-twist­ing, limb-splay­ing court cov­er­age to get to nearly ev­ery ball, sneak­ers squeak­ing around the blue court in Arthur Ashe Sta­dium, where the roof was closed be­cause of rain.

“I was play­ing al­most at the limit, all the time, look­ing for win­ners with my fore­hands, back­hands, and I couldn’t make it,” del Potro said, “be­cause No­vak (was) there ev­ery time.”

Never was that more ap­par­ent than the game that stood out on this evening, with Djokovic serv­ing while down 4-3 in the sec­ond set. They went back and forth, through eight deuces and all those break op­por­tu­ni­ties for del Potro, un­til he slapped one fore­hand into the net, and an­other sailed wide.

Those were high-risk shots, but, as del Potro put it: “It’s the only way to beat these kind of play­ers.”

Djokovic’s coach, Mar­ian Va­jda, called that mo­ment the match’s “turn­ing point, ob­vi­ously.”

When it ended, with Djokovic hold­ing to 4-all, spec­ta­tors be­gan leav­ing their seats, per­haps think­ing it was time for a changeover, even though it wasn’t. That prompted to chair um­pire Ali­son Hughes to chas­tise them.

It was a brief re­quest, though, un­like her many other pleas for quiet, mainly as fans were shout­ing and chant­ing and clap­ping in sup­port of del Potro. It all both­ered Djokovic, who started yelling and ges­tur­ing to­ward the seats. At one mo­ment, he pressed his right in­dex fin­ger to his lips, as if to say, “Sh­h­h­h­hhh!” Later, af­ter win­ning a point, Djokovic put that fin­ger to his ear, as if to say, “Who are you cheer­ing for now?!”

The tiebreaker was re­solved thanks to more del Potro mis­cues on his fore­hand side, as he looked more and more fa­tigued. He made one last stand by break­ing and hold­ing for 3-all. But that was that.

When it ended, thanks to a three-game clos­ing run by Djokovic, he flung his racket away and landed on his back, arms and legs spread wide.

He had hit his peak, Va­jda said, at “just at the right time.”

Djokovic had never gone through an ex­tended ab­sence un­til 2017, when he sat out the sec­ond half of the sea­son be­cause of el­bow pain that had plagued him for more than a year. He tried to re­turn at the start of this sea­son, but couldn’t, and opted for surgery.

It took him some time to find the right form, as ev­i­denced by his quar­ter­fi­nal loss at the French Open to a guy who was ranked 72nd and had never won a Grand Slam match un­til that tour­na­ment.

“I was very, very dis­ap­pointed with my per­for­mance that day,” Djokovic re­called Sun­day, ex­plain­ing that he went hik­ing in the moun­tains in France to clear his head af­ter that set­back.

Djokovic then got right back to work, and an­nounced that he was, once more, him­self by win­ning Wim­ble­don.

Now he’s backed that up at the U.S. Open, the fourth time in his ca­reer he won mul­ti­ple ma­jors in a sea­son.

“Dif­fi­cult times, but you learn through ad­ver­sity,” Djokovic said. “I try to take the best out of my­self in those mo­ments.” – AP

Photo: AP

No­vak Djokovic, of Ser­bia, cel­e­brates af­ter de­feat­ing Juan Martin del Potro, of Ar­gentina, dur­ing the men’s fi­nal of the U.S. Open ten­nis tour­na­ment on Sun­day in New York.

Photo: AP

Juan Martin del Potro, of Ar­gentina, re­acts af­ter break­ing the serve of No­vak Djokovic, of Ser­bia, dur­ing the men’s fi­nal of the US Open ten­nis tour­na­ment on Sun­day in New York.

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