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Novak Djokovic equals Grand Slam record with 24th title after US Open win over Daniil Medvedev

Novak Djokovic equals Grand Slam record with 24th title after US Open win over Daniil Medvedev

Novak Djokovic equalled Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles with a masterclass against Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final overnight here in New York.

The Serbian won 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 for his fourth title in New York, and in doing so he became the oldest tournament victor in the Open era.

Djokovic was overcome with emotion in the aftermath of the win. “It means the world to me,” said the 36-year-old, who on Monday returned to No1 in the world.

“I’m really living my childhood dream. To make the history of this sport is something truly special and remarkable. I never imagined I would be here talking about 24 Slams.”

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His last Slam triumph here was in 2018. Since then, he had been defaulted in the tournament and denied entry last year because of his refusal to have a Covid vaccination.

This was a repeat of the 2021 final, which Medvedev, 27, had dominated on his wedding anniversary and which ended with Djokovic in tears after receiving the crowd adulation he has so long craved, albeit in defeat.

Record equalled: Novak Djokovic is now level with Margaret Court on 24 Grand Slam wins (Getty Images)
Record equalled: Novak Djokovic is now level with Margaret Court on 24 Grand Slam wins (Getty Images)

For this final — again on the Russian’s wedding anniversary — Djokovic had the majority of the backing in the arena, including American actor Matthew McConaughey in his box.

On court, he produced a strategic masterclass in what was his 10th US Open final appearance, finding a weakness in Medvedev’s decision to receive so deep behind the baseline by serving and volleying more than more than he had done in any of his previous matches in New York.

In truth, it was a far closer final than the scoreline suggested, but it always felt like the older man had the bettering of his opponent. It also resulted in Djokovic leaving New York having dropped sets in just one match, against Laslo Djere.

Medvedev had proved the disruptor in the previous round, denying the expected Djokovic final against Carlos Alcaraz with such a brilliant semi-final display.

Come the final, he could not quite pull off a repeat, as his opponent won three of the four Grand Slams in a calendar year for the fourth time. Medvedev admitted he had not felt in peak condition since his fourth-round win over Alex De Minaur in four sets.

“Sometimes in a Grand Slam you’re not going to feel 100 per cent and you may still win the whole thing,” he said.

“For sure, physically I would like to come better to this match, but if you play Carlos in the semi-finals, you know that physically it’s going to be a tough one.

Struggle: Daniil Medvedev was not in top condition and couldn’t repeat his 2021 triumph (Getty Images)
Struggle: Daniil Medvedev was not in top condition and couldn’t repeat his 2021 triumph (Getty Images)

“So there is no other choice and you still want to win and just I had to be better physically, mentally and tennis-wise.”

The opening rally of the match lasted 19 shots, indicating the potential slugfest that lay ahead. Djokovic did well to hold his opening service game but then broke Medvedev to love. Both had stellar records when winning the first set — in the case of Djokovic, he had won 72 of 73 previous US Open matches when taking the opener.

He could not take the first two set points that eventually came his way on the Medvedev serve, but duly took the set on his own subsequent service game.

Any sense that Djokovic might run away with it proved unfounded. Medvedev knew, in all reality, he needed to win the second set to have any hope of staying in the match.

The first break opportunity of that set did not come until game seven, which proved an odd game. Djokovic stumbled at one point and ended up breathless and prostrate on the blue surface, an odd response with the roof closed and the Arthur Ashe Stadium air conditioning on.

Djokovic was clearly tiring and Medvedev did well to lengthen the points as much as possible. Medvedev got his first break point of the night with an overhead smash in the next game before a stunning recovery from Djokovic. Medvedev again had a break point at 5-6 on his rival’s serve, but once more Djokovic saved himself with the serve-volley tactic.

Djokovic won the tie-break thanks to a limp Medvedev backhand into the net — with the match clock at two-and-a-half hours. Immediately, Medvedev called for the trainer for treatment on his shoulder and painkillers, an issue which clearly bothered him to the end.

His frustration spilled over with a tetchy exchange with his coach, Gilles Cervara, who pleaded with his player to stick to the game plan.

Tribute: Djokovic wore a special T-shirt in New York remembering close friend Kobe Bryant (REUTERS)
Tribute: Djokovic wore a special T-shirt in New York remembering close friend Kobe Bryant (REUTERS)

But the Russian was broken in game four only for Djokovic, with victory in his sights, to allow his rival to break back. Any sense that a comeback might be looming were nullified with a third straight service game break.

Djokovic put on a special T-shirt shortly after his win which had a photo of him next to Kobe Bryant and the number 24. Around the photo was the slogan Mamba Forever. Bryant was known as the ‘Black Mamba’ and wore the number 24 for the Los Angeles Lakers.

“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. He was always there for any kind of counsel, advice.”