What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago, Novak Djokovic wasn’t even playing in the US Open while trying rehab a nagging elbow injury that eventually required surgery. Now, he’s the champ.
Djokovic captured his 14th Grand Slam title on Sunday at Arthur Ashe Stadium, defeating Juan Martin del Potro in the US Open men’s final. Djokovic made relatively quick work of del Potro, beating him, 6-4, 7-6, 6-3.
Despite Sunday’s defeat, del Potro’s run at this year’s tournament was something special. After defeating Roger Federer to win the US Open title in 2009 , del Potro has had a tumultuous journey back to the championship stage. He nearly quit tennis after undergoing four wrist surgeries (three of them on his left wrist) that left him in a deep depression and had him seriously weighing retirement.
Djokovic faced similar questions about whether he’d ever get back to another major final with his elbow woes, but after his triumph at Wimbledon in July, and with the more heralded — and older — Rafael Nadal and Federer showing signs of slowing down, another reign of the Djoker looks very real in men’s tennis.
Sunday’s victory is Djokovic’s second straight Grand Slam title. He also was crowned champion at Wimbledon after beating Kevin Anderson in the final. This is Djokovic’s third win at the US Open, having won previously in 2011 and 2015.
It wasn’t an easy victory for Djokovic – this was his first match all tournament that went beyond the three-hour mark – but it was an impressive victory for the Serbian. He continued to move and strike the ball well, playing a tight game and often looking impenetrable defensively.
To reach Sunday’s final, Djokovic brought the heat to Kei Nishikori in Friday night’s semifinal, wearing down the 2014 Open runner-up with his stellar defense in a dominating performance. Djokovic was just that much better than Nishikori in a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win to reach his record-tying eighth final in New York.
Del Potro, the No. 3 seed from Argentina, advanced in Friday’s other semifinal when defending champion Nadal, who retired from their semifinal because of a painful right knee after dropping the opening two sets. Nadal is the first man to retire from a semifinal or final at the US Open since the professional era began in 1968. The final score was 7-6, 6-2.
Djokovic and del Potro had squared off 18 times but never in a major final prior to Sunday. Against Djokovic, del Potro is 4-15 in his career, including 0-4 in majors.