Novak Djokovic needed a lift.
Djokovic had just beaten his nemesis, 17-time major winner Roger Federer, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 to capture his second U.S. Open and was having trouble climbing into the box that held the waiting embrace of his coaches, trainers, family and friends.
So those closest to Djokovic, those who knew his struggles and dreams best, joined together and hoisted the winner into their arms. They lifted him up just in time for him to lift up the trophy.
The victory was Djokovic’s second U.S. Open title in six attempts and garnered him $3.3 million. He also won in 2011 over Rafael Nadal but lost in the final in 2010 and ’13 to Nadal, in 2012 to Andy Murray and in 2007 to Federer.
Novak Djokovic was one match short of winning the calendar Grand Slam. Serena Williams, losing in the U.S. Open semifinals, was two matches short.
With the win, Djokovic amassed a better record at the majors this year than Serena Williams, who fell two matches short of the Grand Slam when she was upset by eventual champion Flavia Pennetta in the semifinals.
Djokovic won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. His only loss in the majors was in the final of the French Open to Stan Wawrinka.
Moments before the players took the court, just before the national anthem and the military flyover, rain began to fall, causing a three-hour postponement of play. It was exactly the type of inconvenience that the USTA will avoid next year when the retractable roof is completed and in use.
Perhaps due to the delay, Federer came out of the gate both flat and tight. He saved three break points in a seven-minute first game and dropped serve in the third, only the third time he had lost his serve in 132 service games this summer.
Federer broke right back when the Serb slipped on the still-moist court and tumbled over, cutting both his knee and right elbow. The two traded breaks again and Djokovic closed out the set with a blistering forehand crosscourt on the run that forced Federer to hit a forehand into the net.
It was the first set that Federer had lost since falling to Djokovic in the final at Wimbledon. He had won 28 straight, including beating Djokovic in the final in Cincinnati two weeks before the U.S. Open.
Federer turned the tide in the second set, controlling extended rallies where he had failed to do so in the first. He was bolstered by a boisterous crowd of 23,771 that had waited through what was supposed to be an afternoon match but became a nighttime one.
Federer employed a variety of clever tactics, like forays to the net, scoop drop shots and his now-famous SABR — or Sneak Attack by Roger — in which he charged forward following his opponent’s first serve, confounding Djokovic and grabbing the second set.
The Swiss, who at 34 years was the oldest U.S. Open finalist since Andre Agassi at 35 lost to Federer in the 2005 championships, had chances in the third but was inconsistent, particularly on break points. He hit 56 winners but also had 54 unforced errors and was just 4 of 23 on break opportunities. For his part, Djokovic was 6 of 13 on break points won and had 35 winners and 37 errors.
Federer had one more chance for glory late in the fourth set. With Djokovic serving for the championship at 5-2, Federer broke with an extraordinary backhand stab volley winner then held for 4-5 with a forehand crosscourt pass. Djokovic stopped the momentum by saving two more break points and then hitting a service winner on his first match point.
Playing against the best player in the history of the game adds a lot of pressure. ... I needed to win this trophy, and it’s an incredible feeling for me.
U.S. Open champion Novak Djokovic
“Playing against the best player in the history of the game adds a lot of pressure,” said a gracious Djokovic. “He’s always going to take the best out of you. I needed to win this trophy and it’s an incredible feeling for me.”
Federer, though, had the last word. Alluding to the women’s champ Pennetta, who announced her retirement after her victory on Saturday, the Swiss ended his on-court comments by telling the crowd, “One last thing: I’ll see you all next year.”
▪ Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza captured the U.S. Open women’s doubles championship with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Casey Dellaqua and Yaroslava Shvedova. Hingis and Mirza also won the Wimbledon doubles while Hingis and Leander Paes won mixed doubles at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Hingis thus becomes the first woman since Billie Jean King in 1967 to win both women’s and mixed doubles at the two majors in the same year. Hingis also owns five singles majors, including the 1997 U.S. Open.
▪ In the sixth All-American junior boys’ final at the U.S. Open, Californian Taylor Fritz, the No. 1 seed, beat fifth-seeded Tommy Paul of Boca Raton, Fla., 6-2, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2. Fritz and Paul also met in the final of the Junior French Open in June, a match won by Paul in three sets.
▪ Dalma Galfi became the first Hungarian to win the junior girls’ singles championships with a 6-4, 6-4 defeat of 16-year-old Sofia Kenin of Pembroke Pines, Fla. Galfi is coached by former world top-10 player Andrea Temesvari.