Published: Fri, September 14, 2018
Sport | By Tony Jimenez

From sick-note Serb to Grand Slam warrior

From sick-note Serb to Grand Slam warrior

The rejuvenated Novak Djokovic produced a magnificent performance against Juan Martin del Potro to claim his third US Open title and equal Pete Sampras' haul of 14 grand slams.

For the second time this year, Novak Djokovic is a tennis major champion.

Things started so well for Del Potro, the Argentine looking for a second US Open title following his maiden, and to date only, grand slam win back in 2009.

Djokovic was soon 3-1 up in the second set before Del Potro carved out his first break point of the match to level at 3-3.

Both players settled for a tie-break in which the 31-year-old Serb rallied from 3-1 down, winning six of the next seven points, to win a mammoth set in 95 minutes and move to within one set of a second straight Grand Slam title. He finished with a flourish, taking the last three games.

Djokovic, playing in his eighth final in NY and already the champion in 2011 and 2015, is now just three Slams behind Rafael Nadal and six back from the all-time record 20 held by Roger Federer.

But Djokovic is almost six years younger than Federer and - prior to a two-year barren spell that was ended by his Wimbledon triumph - had been winning slams at an average of almost two a season.

Del Potro said he was most proud of not giving up in pursuit of another Grand Slam final, adding: "I got it after nine years, which is wonderful to me because the US Open is my favourite tournament and I'm proud of that".

He said: "If you told me in February this year when I got the surgery that I'd win Wimbledon, the US Open and Cincinnati then it would be hard to believe".

"As for Serena, she knows I love her".

"(Marco) Cecchinato has made me realise a lot of things after that loss to him in Roland Garros", said Djokovic. Del Potro broke down in uncontrollable tears on his chair.

Yet the atmosphere was more positive on Sunday as spectators enjoyed an absorbing contest - again played under the roof of Arthur Ashe Stadium due to rain - between two great friends.

"I took the risks with my forehand because it was the only way to beat this kind of player".

Amid increasing noise between points and serves, which prompted frequent interventions from chair umpire Alison Hughes, the previously assured Djokovic - who missed the tournament previous year due to an elbow injury - appeared agitated. Here's a look at those who expressed congratulations to Djokovic.

The game went so long that 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.

But against one of the best returners in the business, Del Potro needed to be far more assertive.

In the tiebreak, Del Potro looked susceptible to forehand errors and Djokovic showed huge courage and quality to take it away from Del Potro, going up 2-0 in the final. Later, after winning a point, Djokovic put that finger to his ear, as if to say, "Who are you cheering for now?!"

And then came Sunday's pivotal game, a 20-minute, 22-point epic. Angelique Kerber went from No. 4 to No. 3. "Of course I'm sad because I lose but I'm happy for Novak, you deserved to win".

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