The big three for more than the past decade are well on their way to ensuring they finish as the three greatest players of all time, now that Novak Djokovic has tied Pete Sampras with 14 Grand Slams. Djokovic claimed his second Grand Slam of 2018 with a 6-3 7-6 6-3 victory in the US Open final over Juan Martin Del Potro. It’s also the third US Open for Djokovic and his first since 2015.
Djokovic had to battle for the final despite the routine scoreline, Del Potro’s forehand was troublesome and a highly partisan crowd tried to carry him to a win. Del Potro came up just short in the second set tiebreak and in the third set he was simply exhausted, a fitter Djokovic covering the court with ease and winning all the clutch points.
Djokovic will now be racing to reclaim the world #1 ranking after a confident week in New York that started slow, but finished with glory. The 31 year old Djokovic dropped sets against Marton Fucsovics and Tennys Sandgren, but then rolled through Richard Gasquet, Joao Sousa, John Millman, and Kei Nishikori. They all battled, but Djokovic had an answer for everything they threw at him. Millman reaching the quarterfinals after stunning a horribly out of form Roger Federer in the 4th round, Federer wilting in the humidity as Millman claimed the win of his life.
Del Potro, back in a slam final for the first time in nearly a decade, deserved all the praise he got. The Argentine dropped just one set prior to the final as Donald Young, Denis Kudla, Fernando Verdasco, Borna Coric, John Isner, and an injured Rafael Nadal all fell before him. Nadal’s knees gave way in their semifinal and he was forced to retire after two sets, in a match he was surely going to lose retirement or not. A second Grand Slam still escapes Del Potro.
In the doubles final Jack Sock and Mike Bryan won their second straight slam, defeating Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo. Bryan hasn’t missed a step since brother Bob suffered a hip injury.
A less than 100% Novak Djokovic faced the one opponent he’s struggled to defeat in Grand Slam matches, Stan Wawrinka, in yesterday’s 2016 US Open final, and the crafty Wawrinka once again rode a strong backhand to victory over the world #1. Wawrinka prevailed 6-7 6-4 7-5 6-3 as he played some clutch tennis on the key points of the match, and Djokovic simply couldn’t maintain any semblance of momentum after taking the first set. The average set time was long, at an hour a set.
Djokovic got off to a hot start with an early break, although he gave up that break and needed a tiebreak to take the set. Wawrinka fired back though, he broke Djokovic twice in the second and third sets, break once more after Djokovic clawed back from early breaks he conceded. The Swiss went up two sets to one and after claiming an early break in the 4th, and dealing with Djokovic taking a medical timeout, the Swiss was steely on serve and took home his third career grand slam in resounding fashion.
Wawrinka has just one career Masters title, but now has 3 grand slams, and the veteran has surpassed Federer as the clear Swiss #1 now. Djokovic didn’t appear to be healthy or fit all tournament, and Wawrinka overcome any concerns about his fatigue and form to take advantage once again of an opportunity against Djokovic. Novak always seems to bring the best out in him.
After #2 Andy Murray was dumped out thanks to the heroics of Kei Nishikori, Wawrinka saw his draw open up, and he thumped the Japanese #1 in the semifinals to reach the final. Gael Monfils came out of the other side of the draw to reach the semis but was poor against a vulnerable Djokovic, and gave up his early hopes of an upset. Monfils had beaten Lucas Pouille in the quarterfinals after the young Frenchman played the match of his life to defeat Rafael Nadal in a five set match.
Wawrinka had to save a match point against Daniel Evans in round 3, where he looked like he might be exiting the tournament. He also beat Fernando Verdasco and Alessandro Giannessi in week 1. Juan Martin Del Potro was his imposing quarterfinal opponent, and altough he dropped a set, he won the match anyway, something that is true of all his matches since he faced Evans, including the 4th rounder against Illya Marchenko.
Djokovic had a sleep walkers draw, he got retirements/walkovers against Jiri Vesely, Mikhail Youzhny, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Jerzy Janowicz took a set in round 1 but was not a difficult opponent, and Kyle Edmund also rolled over to the world #1 in round 4. Still, that lack of match time by the time he reached the final may have haunted Djokovic, as his game was far from its peak.
Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares beat Pablo Carreno Busta and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez to win the Doubles title. The re-emergence of Wawrinka, and a healthy Nadal, Del Potro, and Nishikori still bode well for a player outside of Murray being able to test Djokovic this fall heading into the World Tour finals in London.
Novak Djokovic closed out the 2015 Grand Slam calendar on the men’s side with a resounding four set victory over world #2 Roger Federer 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-4. The victory gave the world #1 his second career US Open title, and his 10th Grand Slam overall, three of them coming this season at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, along with the title in New York. Djokovic has had an incredible season that saw him finish just a French Open final loss away from claiming the calendar year Grand Slam, as he silenced all of the critics about who the world’s best player is right now.
In the final, both players had their chances, and neither played up to the level they had in previous matches at the tournament, including their semifinal blowouts. Djokovic put the pressure on the 34 year old Federer in the very first game, but failed to convert the three break point chances he generated. Federer would later be broken to go down 3-4, and fail to convert a break point chance he had to get the match back on even terms. Though he would save a set point on his own serve, Djokovic served the opening frame out at love.
In set 2 it was Novak who dropped his level and faced pressure from Federer, he had to save five break points from 0-40 down in his opening service game of set #2, and then had to save two break point/set points on his own serve at 4-5. Federer finally got a break when he needed it, as Djokovic couldn’t force a tiebreak and the match went to 1 set each after a Federer break for 7-5.
In the third set Federer had a chance to take a resounding lead, as after a pair of early breaks, he had two break point chances to go up 5-3 in the set and serve for it. Instead, Djokovic would hold, then break, and save a pair of break points to take the decisive 2 sets to 1 lead. At this point Federer was frustrated and Djokovic started to roll, breaking twice for a 5-2 lead. Federer gave it one final fight with pride, and with nothing to lose, broke and held to get it 4-5 but he once more failed to convert his break point chances in the final game of the match, and on his first match point, Djokovic secured Grand Slam #10.
Federer was aggressive and generated plenty of return chances, as he won just two fewer points than Djokovic in the 4 set match (147-145). However he was just 4/23 on break point chances, and when it mattered he became defensive and nervous in the clutch, a far cry from his formerly lethal status as Darth Federer, the #1 player in the game, and perhaps the greatest of all time. It is still incredible can compete at such a high level at his age, and his play this summer is a remarkable feat, but Djokovic had the mental edge and was rock solid when it mattered, earning him a well deserved victory with his 6/13 break point conversion result. Judging from his reaction at the end of the match, losing meant a lot to Federer and he was emotionally invested in the result.
Djokovic and Federer were deserving finalists and by the far best two men’s performers in the second week. Djokovic needed 4 sets to get past Roberto Bautista Agut and Feliciano Lopez, but put any doubts about his form to bed with a thumping of defending champion Marin Cilic in the semifinals, as the Serbian superstar dropped just 3 games in three sets.
Federer used two tiebreak victories and a break to send American #1 John Isner packing on Labor Day, and then totally controlled play against both Richard Gasquet, and his countryman Stan Wawrinka without dropping a set. Wawrinka couldn’t conjure up the same level of play that earned him a victory over Federer in Paris at the French Open, and before losing to Djokovic, Federer hadn’t dropped a set, not to mention lost a match, since Cincinnati. Credit should also go to Kevin Anderson, who reached the quarterfinals with a four set win over world #3 Andy Murray, in the best performance of the big serving South African’s career. Overall the US Open featured career performances from both top players, and names like Anderson and Fabio Fognini.
It will be interesting to see if both Djokovic and Federer can maintain their fantastic form throughout the rest of the season and continue to battle in the remaining big tournaments on the calendar.
In doubles Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut won their first Grand Slam title together, 6-4 6-4 over Jamie Murray/John Peers. The veteran Mahut tastes Grand Slam glory after two previous final losses in doubles (Australian Open 2015 and French Open 2013).