US Open: Novak Djokovic sinks Juan Martin del Potro to catch Pete Sampras

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US Open: Novak Djokovic sinks Juan Martin del Potro to catch Pete Sampras

Just four months ago, Novak Djokovic was defeated in the second round of Madrid Masters by Kyle Edmund, suffering his sixth loss in 12 matches so far in 2018 and having a lot of work to be done in order to recover his shape and get back where he belongs after that nasty elbow injury that has been bothering for quite a while. The first signs of improvement have been seen in Rome where he played a challenging match against Rafael Nadal in the semis before reaching the Roland Garros quarter-final and the final at Queen's, wasting a match point against Cilic to stay empty-handed.

Novak did lift a trophy a few weeks later and it was the biggest one in our sport, conquering his fourth Wimbledon crown and completing his comeback in Cincinnati where he toppled Roger Federer to become the first player who achieved a Career Golden Masters, heading to New York as one of the favorites. The Serb has been one of the most consistent figures in the history of the US Open, reaching 11 consecutive semi-finals since 2007 (he was forced to miss the last Grand Slam of the season in 2017) and seven finals overall, winning two finals in 2011 and 2015.

Novak has won his third US Open title and the 14th Major overall with a 6-3 7-6 6-3 triumph over the 2009 winner Juan Martin del Potro in three hours and 15 minutes to secure his place in the history of our sport once again. After Wimbledon and Cincinnati it was clear that Novak is enjoying tennis again and that he plays injury-free and highly motivated to get back where he belongs.

He needed just a few tournaments to turn his season upside down and become the main rival to Rafael Nadal for the year-end number 1 position, with nothing to defend in the rest of the year. Djokovic has managed to overpower six rivals and enormous heat and humidity in New York to enter his eighth US Open final, moving ahead of Roger Federer and tying with Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras who also played in the title match eight times.

In addition, this was the 23rd Grand Slam final for Novak, just one behind Rafael Nadal, and the 14th on hard courts which moves him to the top of the list together with Roger Federer, looking good to pass the great rival in 2019.

In addition, Novak is only the fourth player in history with 14 Major crowns (nine on hard courts) and this was his 71st ATP title and the 53rd on his beloved hard courts. Novak is only the second player in the Open era after Roger Federer with three titles at three different Slams and he joins Federer, Sampras and Nadal as the fourth player with four seasons with at least two Slams won.

Juan Martin del Potro was competing in his second Grand Slam final, the first in nine years, and he reached the title match in a great fashion, spending just over 14 hours on the court (Nadal was forced to retire in the semi-final due to a knee injury) and losing one set to secure the place in the final and hope for the fifth win over Novak in 19 matches, the first since Rio Olympics two years ago.

Despite a great effort, he was unable to upend the mighty rival who played on a very high level almost during the entire match, taking the most important points in the closing stages of all three sets to bring the encounter home in straight sets and start a huge celebration.

Del Potro delivered a solid package but Novak was simply on another level, doing just about everything better on the court to deserve the title in straight sets. They had the similar percentages behind the first serve (just six aces for Delpo) and Novak did his magic on the second serve, facing six break points and losing serve only twice.

On the other hand, he won 39% of the return points, taming his rival's serve in a more efficient way and breaking him four times from seven opportunities he got. Djokovic had 31 winners and 38 unforced errors while the Argentinian had the same number of winners but also 47 unforced errors, unable to defend his backhand or make more damage with his forehand against such a strong rival who was covering the court in a manner of the best mover in the sport.

The opening set was decided with one loose service game from del Potro at 3-4, allowing Novak to close it with a solid hold in the ninth game for a 6-3. The second set has to be one of the longest in Grand Slam finals, lasting for over 90 minutes and containing a 20-minute game on Novak's serve at 3-4.

The Serb broke in the third game to continue his steady ride but Juan Martin finally managed to score a break of his own, leveling the score at 3-3 and staying on the same level with the rival by the end of the set. Actually, he had a chance to grab another break in that mammoth game but Novak fends off three break points for a huge hold that gave him a lot of confidence.

Four good holds on both sides sent them into a tie break and they traded four mini-breaks in the first five points to stay locked up at 4-4. Novak scored a crucial mini-break in the following point after a huge forehand error from del Potro and he won the next couple of points on serve to take the breaker 7-4 and move just a set away from the title.

He broke again in the fourth game of the third set but Juan Martin was not to be denied before giving his everything, pulling the break back in the next game to extend his chances. Nonetheless, Novak kept his coolness and he created another gap with a break in game eight, sealing the deal with a smash winner a few minutes later to fall to the ground in disbelief after catching one of his childhood idols on 14 Major crowns. Final result:


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