Thrilled to win a point in the U.S. Open final, and bent on proving a point, Novak Djokovic roared and threw an uppercut, then glared at some of the thousands of spectators pulling for Roger Federer.
After winning another point in that game, Djokovic nodded as he smiled toward the stands. And moments later, Djokovic shook his right arm, and screamed, “Yes! Yes!” to celebrate a missed forehand by Federer.
Djokovic appeared to be all alone out there in Arthur Ashe Stadium, trying to solve Federer while also dealing with the thousands of fans pulling for the 17-time major champion proclaimed “arguably the greatest player in the history of the sport” by the stadium announcer during pre-match introductions.
In the end, Djokovic handled everything in a thrill-a-minute final on a frenetic night. Frustrating Federer with his relentless defence and unparalleled returning, Djokovic took control late and held on for a 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory on Sunday to earn his second U.S. Open title, third major championship of the year and 10th Grand Slam trophy in all.
The 34-year-old Federer found himself trying to put the ball into the tiniest of spaces. And it didn’t work. He wound up with 54 unforced errors, 17 more than Djokovic. Another key statistic — Djokovic saved 19 of the 23 break points he faced, while winning six of Federer’s service games.
The momentum, and match, shifted dramatically late in the third set, when Federer held two break points to go up 5-3 and get a chance to serve for a 2-1 lead in sets.
But on the first, Federer dumped a forehand into the net. And on the second, Djokovic ended a 15-stroke exchange by punishing Federer’s weak backhand with a big cross-court forehand winner. After holding there, Djokovic grabbed the key break for a 5-4 lead when Federer shanked a forehand, then missed a backhand wide. Djokovic pointed to his right temple as he wheeled toward his guest box, where coach Boris Becker was standing in approval.
Djokovic then served out that set, saving two break points along the way, and moving out front for good on yet another backhand error from Federer.
Picking up steam as Federer seemed to wilt, Djokovic broke again and went up 2-0 in the fourth, making it a five-game run. He would take eight of 10 games there, and had a chance to serve out the victory at 5-2. But Federer broke there, forcing Djokovic to try again. The next time, Djokovic did not falter, pointing to his heart after one last shot by Federer flew beyond the baseline.