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September 2018
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US Open 2018: Djokovic reclaims crown in an emphatic manner
 
(New York, Sep 10, 2018):Novak Djokovic has been nicknamed the ‘Djoker’: he’s funny, he’s a prankster with a wicked, malevolent smile. But this year, he played like a King. On Sunday, he reclaimed his place on a throne weighted by his recent past and all the chances that slipped away.

In a men’s final that provided spectacular relief from the previous night, Djokovic defeated Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-3 to lift his third U.S. Open title and his 14th overall Grand Slam title.

“If you told me in February, when I got the surgery, that I’ll win Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and Cincinnati, it would have been hard to believe,” he said.

It would be indeed, but when he lifted the trophy with the same elbow that sidelined him with an injury for months last year, it was as if he was never gone.

Purposeful

Djokovic rolled through the first set with strokes so linear and straightforward, his every movement so justified that you can never forget the point of the shot: which is not to be pretty but to be precise.

With every shot and slice, Djokovic was like a dentist repairing a cavity: he anaesthetised and chipped away at his opponent with dogged purpose. del Potro, even with the crowd behind him, must’ve felt a dull, throbbing pain throughout.

Forehand fails

del Potro’s forehand is a statement of purpose, even when it fails repeatedly as it did during the final.

When he sends the ball over, he absolutely does not expect to see it back. If you fire a combat missile, you are not interested in getting it back.

Djokovic, however, was ready for it. His returns punctuated the exchange with an exclamation point and dictated the action.

That Djokovic managed to make contact at all — in his trademark body-spliting, arms-flaying style — much less return and score a winner on del Potro’s scorching forehand shot is a cosmic strength that only he possesses in the current game.

“I was playing almost at the limit, all the time, looking for winners with my forehands, backhands, and I couldn’t make it,’’ del Potro said, “because Novak [was] there every time.”

Crucial game

Djokovic was everywhere, but most crucially in the eighth game of the second set. It was the only real swing of momentum, which came in the form of 20-minute, 22-point game epic.

The gentle giant had seemingly woken up after the raucous chants of Ole! Ole! Ole! Del Po! and broke the Serb’s serve with a crushing forehand down the line.

He was a point from breaking and serving to make it a set apiece.

Three times on breakpoint after that, Djokovic steeled himself.

He sprinted and stretched for balls and directed difficult backhands up the line.

He cut off angles and sent del Potro’s forehands back as drop-shots moving along trajectories that seemed to involve different dimensions.

Eventually, he seized that game — and del Potro’s best opportunity to make a match of it.

It was some of Djokovic’s terrifyingly good tennis.

In the third, he kept it tough and tight. del Potro could only drop his head in weary exasperation before turning to chase down yet another improbable Djokovic passing shot.

Watching Djokovic used to mean witnessing airless, perfect tennis. But now, it is different.

The pleasure of watching Djokovic now is seeing him rediscover himself and his powers.


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