On a sultry night in New York, Novak Djokovic claimed ownership of the tennis world. The 36-year-old Serbian imprinted himself…
On a sultry night in New York, Novak Djokovic claimed ownership of the tennis world. The 36-year-old Serbian imprinted himself on yet more pages of the tennis record books with a 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 victory over Daniil Medvedev.
The match itself was one full of long, tumultuous rallies. Both men had come in with the mindset of locking their games down and keeping the unforced errors to a minimum. Medvedev has sometimes referred to himself as a chess-master on the court; this style of tennis certainly explained that nickname, as he constantly probed away at Djokovic.
Of course, Djokovic can have that ‘no-miss’ reputation as well, so often it was taking something quite special to end the points. There were plenty of special moments in the match, but the key to the victory for Djokovic was the second set.
An all-time great second set
It was one hour and forty-five minutes of absorbing action. There were no breaks, but half of the games in the set went to deuce. Both men, by this stage, were fully locked in and comfortable in their games and it was showing on the court. Medvedev, with his rangy movement, ate up the ground without seemingly breaking a sweat, but Djokovic constantly found the right answers to the Russian’s questions.
It looked as though Medvedev might’ve been able to draw the match level at one set each when he had set point at 6-5, but that is when Djokovic deployed his trump card.
Medvedev has continued to employ his exceptionally deep return position. It has brought him a lot of success, but Djokovic had clearly planned for this and practiced a tactic specifically for this match, the serve and volley out wide to the Medvedev forehand. He forced the 2021 US Open champion almost into the first row of seating with a swinging serve and that gave him so much time to close the net and make the volley off the return.
Djokovic’s success at the net was the key to the match. He didn’t miss a volley all match and at one stage had won every net point that he got a racket on. For a player who isn’t renowned for his net play, the Serbian showed everyone, once again, that he has all the tools that a tennis player requires.
Djokovic, Bryant, and Mamba Mentality
The tiebreak was full of epic points, Medvedev will perhaps feel that he should’ve capitalised on the wonder point that put him 5-4 ahead in the breaker, but Djokovic closed out. That takes Djokovic’s tie-break record in 2023 to 26-5 — a ridiculous 81% win rate. This is where his key edge is at this time in his career, the mental strength that he displays is unparalleled.
With the second set in the bag it felt only a matter of time until the Serbian was crowned King of Queens for the first time since 2018. In the victory ceremony he was able to display, not only his custom made #24 jacket, but also a t-shirt that he made to commemorate the great basketballer, Kobe Bryant. He spoke warmly about his good friend, and revealed that they often discussed a champion’s mind-set and winning mentality, something that was labelled ‘Mamba Mentality’.
It is surely this mentality that has enabled Djokovic to maintain his singular approach to his career, and his life generally.
Emotions felt as records tumble
Djokovic was clearly highly emotional at the end of this final. He sobbed on the court, curled up in a ball on his knees. He quickly set off through the crowd to find his family; first, his daughter, who he shared a long embrace with, then the rest of his family and team in his box. The joy, relief, realisation of a dream, all hit home for the great man. He collapsed into one of the crowd chairs for a moment to survey the scene of his latest triumph. In part, completely exhausted, but, also, with pride.
That was his 4th US Open title, his 24th Grand Slam singles title. This moves him further clear in the Men’s Grand Slam race but also draws him alongside Margaret Court in all of tennis.
He also became the oldest US Open title winner in the Open era. It was his fourth season of winning three Grand Slams — another new record. It was his 36th Grand Slam final, also a record.
The next Grand Slam tournament is in Australia in January 2024. Djokovic has won in Melbourne 10 times already and there can be no doubt that there will be a jacket printed with #25 on it. Will the Serbian deliver there as well?