Novak Djokovic equals Pete Sampras’ record grand slam haul with a masterful win over Juan Martin del Potro, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-3.
The U.S. Open men’s final was a much different affair than the women’s event, with all the drama being relegated to extremely high quality shot making. The scoreboard didn’t accurately reflect the level of tennis that transpired. It may have gone to just three sets, but each one was peppered with rallies between Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro that were breathtaking in scope, ending just past three hours with the Serbian collecting his 14th grand slam victory.
Novak Djokovic has now equaled the record of his idol, Pete Sampras.
“I was hoping Pete [Sampras] was going to be here, so I want to say: ‘I love you, hope to see you soon,’” said Djokovic afterward, according to The Guardian.
Poor Sampras. First he had to watch Federer match his 14, then fly past all the way up to No. 20. Rafael Nadal followed suit and now sits at 17. Sampras thought his record would stand for generations, never thinking that three of the greatest tennis champions would succeed him just one generation later and all play during the same era.
In many ways you can argue that Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic are so great because of each other. They’ve competed to be better than the other two and have contributed to the greatest generation of tennis players the game has ever seen. Federer and Rafa can’t be comfortable now that Djokovic is officially back and sitting just six off of Fed’s record and three from Rafa’s. He’s certainly playing as strong as ever and has locked in the most grand slam success over the other two this year. If there was a question of the next generation posing a threat to the Big Three, Djokovic’s second slam title of the year answered definitively. The Big Three still retain a stranglehold on the big prizes and don’t look like they are going away anytime soon.
It’s a disappointment for del Potro, one of just a very few during the era of Federer-Nadal-Djokovic to achieve a grand slam title, the 2009 U.S. Open final against the Swiss. He lacked the energy that Djokovic excelled at on Sunday, despite a pro-Argentine crowd that tried to energize him with chants of “Ole, Ole, Ole, Delpo, Delpo!” He rallied during the second set, where he started the tie break with a lead, before Djokovic was able to dig deep and take his chance at a second slam title away with superior form and resilience. Delpo’s always been a fighter, as we saw with his surprise victory over the Serb at the 2016 Olympics that culminated in the Argentine’s silver medal.
But it was not today. After several wrist surgeries and a remarkable comeback since 2016, which included a win over Roger Federer to clinch the Masters 1000 crown at Indian Wells earlier this year, his search for a second slam continues.
This year has clearly belonged to Novak Djokovic, with a complete turnaround from elbow injury last year and surgery in February
The 2016 U.S. Open final served notice for Djokovic’s loss in form. But now he ends the tennis grand slam season with Flushing Meadows serving as the background for his miraculous comeback, placing him right back at the pinnacle of the sport.