Novak Djokovic moved into joint third on the all-time list of male grand slam singles champions by beating Juan Martin del Potro to win the US Open.
Djokovic is now level with Pete Sampras on 14 titles and, after following up his Wimbledon triumph by making it back-to-back slam successes, is closing in once more on Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
With his two-year physical and mental dip apparently firmly behind him, questions will again be posed as to whether he can catch Nadal on 17 or even Federer’s 20.
After all the drama this tournament has created, capped by Saturday’s extraordinary women’s final, the headlines here were all made for the right reasons as Djokovic triumphed 6-3 7-6 (7/4) 6-3.
Del Potro was the sentimental favourite as he attempted to win a second slam title nine years after his first, having suffered two serious wrist injuries, the second of which he feared would end his career.
But Del Potro needed more than just goodwill to beat Djokovic at his best, he needed his mighty forehand to be flawless and the rest of his game to back it up.
This was not that day, although even at his absolute best he would have struggled to hold off Djokovic on this form.
The Serbian, who had won 14 of their previous 18 meetings, looked to be in total control at a set and 3-1 up but Del Potro began to really unleash on his forehand and the match came alive.
Had Del Potro managed to get across the line in the 20-minute Djokovic service game that followed to lead 5-3, things might have played out differently, but Djokovic hung on.
The protagonists seemed a little spent when it finally ended and settled for the tie-break, where Del Potro led 3-1 but paid for missed forehands as Djokovic claimed six of the next seven points to end a 95-minute set.
Djokovic had only won two of his previous seven finals at Flushing Meadows, losing to four different players, but his sole loss from two sets up at a grand slam came eight years ago so Del Potro’s chances of mounting a miracle recovery appeared slim.
Even more so when Djokovic broke to lead 3-1 in the third set, only for his poise to desert him a little again and allow Del Potro to hit straight back. On break point, Hughes awarded a time violation against Djokovic, much to the Serbian’s annoyance.
But he took the argument no further, and promptly broke Del Potro again before clinching victory with a smash and dropping to the court in celebration.
Djokovic will climb above his opponent to third in the rankings and has a chance to finish the year back at number one – a remarkable feat considering the manner in which he began the season.
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