The 2018 summer has belonged to Novak Djokovic, and he capped it off with a defiant win in the U.S. Open final on Sunday, soundly beating third-seed Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-3 to win his 14th Grand Slam title.
“If you told me in February this year when I got the surgery that I’ll win Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Cincinnati, [it] would be hard to believe,” said Djokovic. “But at the same time there was always part of me that imagined and believed and hoped that I can get back on the desired level of tennis very soon.”
Playing in his ninth U.S. Open final, Djokovic secure the opening set’s only break point for a 5-3 lead, and calmly served out the set.
He carried that momentum into the second set to go up 3-1 early, but del Potro responded by breaking back to level the set. But Djokovic stormed ahead in the ensuing tiebreak to open up the two-sets-to-love lead.
The two players exchanged breaks for 3-3 in the final set, but Djokovic, arguably the greatest returner ever, broke one last time for 5-3 and proceeded to serve out the set and the title. He clinched the victory with an overhead smash and immediately dropped to the ground.
Djokovic’s 14 Grand Slam titles ties him with American Pete Sampras, who was one of the Serb’s idols growing up.
“Pete Sampras is one of the biggest legends ever to play the game. He was my childhood idol. He was someone I looked up to,” he said. “The first actual thing I saw related to tennis on TV was his first or second Wimbledon championship. That inspired me to start playing tennis.
There is a lot of significance of me being now shoulder to shoulder in terms of Grand Slam wins with him. It’s truly incredible when you think about it. I watched him win one of his first Wimbledon championships, and I grew up playing and thinking that one day I’ll be able to do what he does. To actually be here, it’s a dream come true.”
Since he dropped a third-set tiebreak to Tennys Sandgren in the second round, Djokovic won 16 consecutive sets to storm to the title. He is now up to No. 2 in the ATP World Tour Rankings.