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Djokovic wins US Open for record equalling 24th Grand Slam

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Novak Djokovic celebrates with the trophy after winning the U.S. Open REUTERS/Mike Segar

Novak Djokovic would not let Daniil Medvedev spoil his date with history a second time as he battled past the Russian 6-3 7-6(5) 6-3 to win the U.S. Open on Sunday and equal Margaret Court’s record haul of 24 Grand Slams.

Djokovic’s victory, his fourth in 10 Flushing Meadows finals, capped another remarkable season after his wins at the Australian Open and Roland Garros, and he will return to the top of the world rankings when they are updated later on Monday.

No man has won a calendar Grand Slam in 54 years, though Djokovic came close once again, losing in five sets to Carlos Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final.

But for the moment he is savouring his 24th Slam.

“It obviously means the world to me,” he said. “I’m really living my childhood dream.

“To make the history of this sport is something truly remarkable, it’s hard to describe the words.

“I had the childhood dream when I was seven, eight, I wanted to become the best player in the world.”

As he continues to live his dream Djokovic is also staking his claim to the mantle of greatest tennis player of all time.

At 36 Djokovic also becomes the oldest U.S. Open men’s winner in the Open Era but the Serb’s Grand Slam hunger has not dimmed and he had some bad news for his younger rivals.

“Eventually one day I will leave tennis in about 23, 24 years,” he joked. “Until then, I guess you’ll see me a bit more.

“I don’t put any number right now in my mind on how many Slams I want to win.

“I’ll continue to prioritize them as my most important tournaments and where I want to play the best tennis.”

KOBE TRIBUTE

After clinching his historic title on Sunday Djokovic threw his racquet into the air and dropped to his knees as the crowd roared.

He picked himself up and found his young daughter court-side for an emotional hug before going back to the bench and pulling out a T-shirt with ‘Mamba Forever’ on the front and the number 24 on the back.

The shirt was a tribute to both his achievement and to his late friend Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, who wore the number throughout much of his all-star career before dying in a helicopter crash.

“I thought of doing this T-shirt, eventually, if I get the chance to win the tournament,” said Djokovic. “Kobe was a close friend, we chatted a lot about the winner’s mentality.

“When I was struggling with injury he was one of the people I relied on the most.”

Neither Djokovic nor Medvedev have been fully embraced by the New York crowds and until the end of the match there was little of the electricity that crackled through Arthur Ashe during the women’s final on Saturday.

As the match started Djokovic walked out onto court and stared across the net at Medvedev, the man once again standing between him and history just as he had two years ago.

The last time the two clashed at the U.S. Open was in the 2021 final, when the Russian captured his only major and denied the Serb that elusive calendar Grand Slam.

Djokovic did not speak of revenge on the road to the final and only referenced that loss as a learning experience.

“I haven’t played any tournament on American soil for two years,” said Djokovic, who missed last year’s Slam due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“I really did my best in the last 48 hours not to allow the importance of the moment and what’s on the line get to my head.

“Two years ago that’s what happened and I wasn’t able to be at my best and I was outplayed.

“So I learned my lesson.”

KILLER INSTINCT

As expected of a contest featuring the sport’s two premier hardcourt players, almost every point was contested with long rallies as both men pounded away from the baseline.

Djokovic came out playing with purpose and applied pressure right away, breaking the third seed at the first opportunity on his way to a 3-0 lead.

That would be the only break Djokovic would need against a surprisingly flat Medvedev, who could not raise his play to the “12 out of 10” level he said he reached in beating defending champion Alcaraz in the semi-finals.

During a marathon one hour and 44 minute, lung-bursting second set Medvedev came to life, forcing a faltering Djokovic into long grinding point after long grinding point.

But the tireless Russian’s hard work failed to pay dividends and he was unable to convert a break chance at 6-5 that would have given him the set.

Medvedev charged in front 3-1 in the tie-break but again could not land the knockout blow as Djokovic came off the ropes to take it 7-5 for a 2-0 lead.

If there is one thing Djokovic possesses it is a killer instinct and the Serb wasted no time in pressing home his advantage, breaking Medvedev to go up 3-1 in the third.

A defiant Medvedev answered with his first and only break of the match but it was not enough with Djokovic hitting right back with another break then holding serve the rest of way to clinch the title.

Novak Djokovic’s run to record 24 Grand Slam titles

The following is a timeline charting how Djokovic surpassed both Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.

2003: Federer became the newest entrant in the Grand Slam club with the first of his eight Wimbledon titles, beating Mark Philippoussis in the final.

Tally: Federer 1

2004: The Swiss player flexed his muscles by winning three majors, the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, losing in the third round of the French Open.

Tally: Federer 4

2005: Federer defended his Wimbledon and U.S. Open crowns, while Nadal burst on to the scene with his first French Open title, beating Mariano Puerta in the final.

Tally: Federer 6; Nadal 1

2006: Federer enjoyed another trophy-laden year, winning three majors, while Nadal laid the foundation for a period of dominance on clay with his second French Open title.

Tally: Federer 9; Nadal 2

2007: The seemingly unstoppable Federer repeated his feat from the previous year, but the French Open title continued to elude him as Nadal thwarted him in the final for a second straight year.

Tally: Federer 12; Nadal 3

2008: Djokovic hit the big time with his maiden major, beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Australian Open final.

After his French Open triumph, Nadal stunned Federer in the Wimbledon final, but the Swiss player responded by winning the U.S. Open.

Tally: Federer 13; Nadal 5; Djokovic 1

2009: Nadal won his first hardcourt Grand Slam title, edging out Federer in five sets in the Australian Open final.

However, Nadal’s 31-game winning streak at Roland Garros came to an end in the fourth round, allowing Federer to claim his only claycourt major trophy.

Nadal was unable to defend his Wimbledon title as he was forced to pull out with knee problems.

Federer went on to claim his record 15th major at Wimbledon, surpassing Pete Sampras’ tally. He finished the season as the year-end number one for the fifth time in his career.

Tally: Federer 15; Nadal 6; Djokovic 1

2010: Federer started the year by winning the Australian Open for a fourth time.

But it turned out to be Nadal’s finest campaign, as he swept the next three majors. He defeated Djokovic in the U.S. Open final to complete a career Grand Slam.

Tally: Federer 16; Nadal 9; Djokovic 1

2011: Djokovic began his ascent to the top by winning 10 tournaments in 2011, including three majors at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

Meanwhile, Nadal reclaimed his French Open crown for his 10th major title overall.

For the first time since 2002, Federer went away empty handed from all four slams.

Tally: Federer 16; Nadal 10; Djokovic 4

2012: Djokovic overcame Nadal in the longest Grand Slam final in the Open Era to win his third Australian Open title.

Nadal continued his dominant run at Roland Garros to add another major title to his tally, while Federer won a record-extending 17th major at Wimbledon.

Tally: Federer 17; Nadal 11; Djokovic 5

2013: Djokovic won his third straight Australian Open by defeating Andy Murray in the final.

While Federer struggled with a back injury, Nadal finished the year as number one after defending his French Open crown and adding another U.S. Open title to his tally.

Tally: Federer 17; Nadal 13; Djokovic 6

2014: Nadal defeated Djokovic to win his ninth French Open title, equalling Sampras’ total of 14 slams. At Wimbledon, Djokovic defeated Federer in the final.

Tally: Federer 17; Nadal 14; Djokovic 7

2015: Djokovic won three majors – the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. The Serb also became only the second man to defeat Nadal at the French Open when he beat the Spaniard in the quarter-finals.

Djokovic reached all four major finals during the season, but was beaten by Stan Wawrinka in the Roland Garros showpiece.

Tally: Federer 17; Nadal 14; Djokovic 10

2016: Djokovic successfully defended his Australian Open crown before winning his maiden French Open title, making him the holder of all four majors – a feat the media dubbed the “Nole Slam”.

Federer and Nadal were both plagued by injuries during the season. Since making his Grand Slam debut in 1999, Federer was a no-show at a major for the first time when he missed the French and U.S. Opens due to injury.

Tally: Federer 17; Nadal 14; Djokovic 12

2017: Federer won his 18th slam – and his first since Wimbledon 2012 – with a thrilling five-set victory over Rafa Nadal in the Australian Open final.

Nadal cemented his place as the greatest claycourter in history when he secured a record 10th title in Roland Garros.

Records continued to tumble as Federer became the first man to win Wimbledon eight times with a victory over Marin Cilic in the final, before Nadal clinched his second U.S. Open title.

Djokovic, who retired midway through his Wimbledon quarter-final against Tomas Berdych, missed the latter half of the season with an elbow injury.

Tally: Federer 19; Nadal 16; Djokovic 12

2018: Federer won his sixth Australian Open to become only the fourth player after Court, Serena Williams and Steffi Graf to win 20 or more major singles titles.

Nadal extended his winning run at Roland Garros, before Djokovic earned his first major in more than two years at Wimbledon.

A third triumph in New York ensured Djokovic had equalled Sampras’ tally of 14 majors and was now only behind Federer and Nadal in the all-time list.

Tally: Federer 20; Nadal 17; Djokovic 14

2019: Djokovic won a third successive major and a record seventh Australian Open with a dominant straight-sets win over Nadal.

He also won a fifth Wimbledon title after saving two match points in a five-set win over Federer in a final that lasted four hours and 57 minutes – the longest in Wimbledon history.

Nadal maintained his stranglehold on the French Open, before holding off Daniil Medvedev in the U.S. Open final to move within one of Federer’s Grand Slam haul.

Tally: Federer 20; Nadal 19; Djokovic 16

2020: Djokovic was back to his best at the Australian Open as he lifted his eighth title at Melbourne Park.

While Wimbledon was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nadal in the French Open inflicted one of the most humiliating defeats on Djokovic, thrashing him 6-0 6-2 7-5 to lift a men’s record-equalling 20th major title.

Federer, with a knee injury, and Nadal, due to the pandemic, opted to skip the U.S. Open.

However, Djokovic missed an opportunity to close the gap on his rivals after he was disqualified from his fourth-round match at Flushing Meadows for accidentally hitting a ball at a line judge.

Tally: Federer 20; Nadal 20; Djokovic 17

2021: Djokovic continued his dominance at the Australian Open to win his ninth title.

After overcoming Nadal in the French Open semi-final, Djokovic fought back from two sets down to defeat Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas and win his 19th major in Paris.

Victory over Italian Matteo Berrettini in the Wimbledon final in July ensured Djokovic moved level on 20 titles with Nadal and Federer.

Tally: Djokovic 20; Federer 20; Nadal 20

2022: Nadal won the Australian Open to secure a record 21st Grand Slam title after beating Daniil Medvedev in the final. He then added his 22nd major title at the French Open before Djokovic beat Nick Kyrgios in the Wimbledon final for his 21st major title.

The same year, Federer announced his retirement.

Tally: Nadal 22; Djokovic 21; Federer 20

2023: Djokovic won a record-extending 10th Australian Open title, beating Tsitsipas for his 22nd Grand Slam crown and equalling Nadal’s record.

With Nadal injured and undergoing hip surgery to end his season, the path was cleared for Djokovic, who defeated Carlos Alcaraz en route to his third French Open crown.

After losing the Wimbledon final to Alcaraz, Djokovic shook off the disappointment of missing out on a calendar slam to beat Medvedev in New York and equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 majors.

Tally: Djokovic 24; Nadal 22; Federer 20

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