NEW YORK — Novak Djokovic emerged from a thrilling and grueling US Open final with a 24th Grand Slam title on Sunday night, using every ounce of her energy and a bit of serve-and-volley guile to overcome the Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3 in a more contested match than the set score indicated.
Djokovic, a 36-year-old player from Serbia, won a major singles title before Serena Williams to become the first player to win 24 in the Open era, which began in 1968. Margaret Court also collected a total of 24, but 13 of those came before professionals were admitted to events in Slam.
“Obviously it means the world to me,” said Djokovic, who will return to the No. 1 ranking on Monday. It will be her 390th week at No. 1, the most by any player in the history of the ATP or WTA rankings.
Djokovic has won titles in exactly one-third of the majors he has played in (24 titles in 72 major appearances).
There were moments, especially in the 1 hour 44 minute second set, which was as much about tenacity as it was about talent, when Djokovic seemed to be faltering. After some of the more grueling points, and there were many, he would bend with his hands on his knees or use his racket as a prop or a break to stretch his legs. After one, he fell on his back on the court and stayed for a while as the crowd roared.
He allowed Medvedev to come within one point of taking this set as he came back from 6-5. Djokovic threw the net behind his serve, and while Medvedev had an opening for a backhand, it didn’t come.
This was a key adjustment: when Djokovic looked more sloppy, he switched to serving and volleying, not his usual tactic, with great success. He won 20 of the 22 points he played that way, and 37 of the 44 total points when he went to the net.
That triumph against Medvedev, the opponent who beat him in the 2021 final at Flushing Meadows to halt a bid for the first calendar-year men’s Grand Slam in more than half a century, made Djokovic the oldest men’s champion in the US Open a year. It was open.
“First of all, Novak, I want to ask: what are you still doing here? Come on,” Medvedev joked during the trophy presentation.
Djokovic’s fourth championship in New York, where he was unable to compete a year ago because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19, goes alongside his 10 Australian Open trophies, seven at Wimbledon and three at the French Open, extending his lead. on the men’s Slam list. Rafael Nadalwho has been sidelined since January with a hip problem that required surgery, is next with 22; Roger Federerwho announced his retirement a year ago, finished with 20.
When it was over, Medvedev tapped Djokovic in the chest as he spoke at the net. Djokovic threw down his racket, raised his arms, then knelt on the court, his head bowed. And then the celebration began. First he found his daughter for a hug. His son and his wife came next, along with their team.
Djokovic soon donned a shirt with “24” and “Mamba Forever” written on it as a tribute to the late NBA star Kobe Bryant, who wore that shirt number. And on top of that was a white jacket with the same significant number emblazoned on the chest.
“Kobe was a close friend,” Djokovic said. “24 is the shirt he wore when he became a legend … so I thought it might be a nice symbolic thing to recognize him for all the things he’s done.”
As good as ever, Djokovic went 27-1 at the sport’s most prestigious events this season – the lone blemish was a loss Carlos Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final in July. Djokovic will move up to No. 1 on Monday, overtaking Alcaraz, who was the reigning champion at Flushing Meadows but was knocked out by third-ranked Medvedev.
At the start on Sunday, with Arthur Ashe Stadium’s retractable roof closed because of rain in the forecast, Djokovic was comfortable. No sign of the occasion weighing on him, no trace of the tension he acknowledged briefly arose at the end of his semi-final against the unseeded American. Ben Shelton.
His exemplary movement, good as always, on every stroke, Djokovic came out as his best self. He took 12 of the first 16 points, three via perfectly placed, rhythmic aces and four via exchanges that lasted 10 or more moves, en route to 3-0 and 4-1 leads.
Medvedev, on the other hand, looked tight, nervous, the swings of his white racket repeatedly broken, whether in a trio of double faults in the first set or during the longest points, save for a backhand of 37 shots after it ended when Djokovic blinked, stumbling as he served a backhand.
Beyond that, however, Djokovic was as reliable as a metronome, anticipating almost everything going his way and dashing back and forth to recover and respond, as is the his custom
And the fans sure thanked them appropriately, which hasn’t always been the case during Djokovic’s career. Late tonight, thousands of people showed support, not just the people who invoked his two-syllable nickname as he chanted, “Let’s go, No-le, let’s go!” or those on his guest list, including Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey, one of the many A-listers on hand.
When he came to point in the first on a Medvedev error, Djokovic showed his first real emotion, raising his fist and turning to the corner where his entourage had stood. When another Medvedev miss ended the set, Djokovic simply exhaled and headed for the sidelines.
It’s based on analysis and what an enemy’s tendencies are. He relies on instinct and a masterful ability to read opposing serves and groundstrokes. On Sunday, his blue shoes got him where he needed to be, most of the time, and his flexibility: turning, bending, contorting, stretching, sliding, defending with his back to the network even allowed him to stay. the ball in play, when necessary, and also create a turnover offense, if desired.
Medvedev plays a similar type of tennis, and his mirror images would stretch points for 25 shots, 35 shots, more.
Was Djokovic perfect? No. But hey, he’s been close in sectionals, and he’s been good enough to win, as he often does.
ESPN Stats & Information and The Associated Press contributed to this report.