Novak Djokovic sealed his third US Open title and 14th Grand Slam overall, levelling Pete Sampras for third place on the career list, with an immaculate display against Juan Martin del Potro on Sunday.
The Serb continued his major domination by winning 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 with an outstanding display at Flushing Meadows.
After missing last year’s tournament with an injured right elbow that eventually required surgery, Djokovic rubber-stamped his return the top of his game with another major title to add to his fourth Wimbledon crown in July.
In their first meeting in a Grand Slam final it was Del Potro, back at this stage for the first time since 2009, who won the coin toss and elected to receive under the Arthur Ashe Stadium roof with heavy rain falling in New York.
But unlike his previous six matches in making the final, he was unable to make an immediate breakthrough against the unwavering Djokovic.
The Serb, who was back in the final for an eighth time and contesting his 23rd Grand Slam final – the third most in men’s tennis history – was serving exceptionally well and earned a break in the eighth game after showing tremendous patience before successfully serving out the set.
Aged just 20, Del Potro defeated Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in successive matches to win the 2009 US Open, and the world No 3 was determined to stay competitive, staying firm following a gritty hold in the opening game of the next set. He eventually succumbed to the mounting pressure in the third game as Djokovic looked to take over proceedings.
However, Del Potro and his mighty forehand came to the party, striking back in spectacular fashion to level at 3-3, while the support for the giant Argentine appeared to rattle Djokovic’s concentration levels.
The eighth game was an epic, lasting over 20 minutes and featuring eight deuces before Djokovic withstood the pressure to hold. Both players settled for a tie-break in which the 31-year-old Serb rallied from 3-1 down, winning six of the next seven points, to win a mammoth set in 95 minutes and move to within one set of a second straight Grand Slam title.
Djokovic had lost five previous finals at Flushing Meadows, but he was determined to make amends for his lack of trophies in New York as his defensive ability combined with his ruthless prowess saw him break in the fourth game, although Del Potro was not in the mood to give up so easily as he hit straight back.
A costly double-fault from Del Potro – his first of the match – and a series of errors saw Djokovic move one game away from victory and after three hours and 16 minutes he completed the job with an unstoppable overhead smash and then lying flat on his back on the court in celebration.
Since playing on the grass at Queen’s Club in June, Djokovic has only lost two matches, while he extended his imposing winning record over Del Potro to 15-4.