Fifteen years on from Novak Djokovic’s first Grand Slam victory at the 2008 Australian Open, as challengers come and go, there remain no signs of him loosening his grip on the biggest stage. 36 never felt younger.
The seeds for the slugfest in the US Open final between Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev were sown at the very start. The first point of the match was an endurance battle of its own, a 19-shot exchange from the baseline on Djokovic’s serve ending with a Medvedev forehand unforced error. Two points later, another gruelling 23-shot exchange ensued, ending with Djokovic hitting a mammoth backhand down-the-line winner.
As Medvedev looked to create battles of attrition, erecting a wall on his side of the court, elongating rallies and getting as many balls back into play as he can, 36-year-old Djokovic flexed his ability not only to physically contend with opponents from younger generations, but also totally tactically outmanoeuvre them, as he picked apart Medvedev 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3 to win a record-extending 24th men’s singles Major championship and a fourth US Open title.
Watching Djokovic compete in 2023 seemingly feels like bearing witness to history and Sunday’s final was no different. In what was an astonishingly underplayed achievement, Djokovic was playing his 36th Grand Slam final – meaning he had reached the summit clash of exactly half of his 72 Grand Slam singles tournament entries.
He became the oldest man in the Open Era to win the US Open singles title and the first man to win three of the four Majors in a calendar year on four separate occasions. On Monday, he will return to the World No. 1 spot of the rankings for a record-extending 390th week after he also won a record-extending 39th Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati the week prior to the US Open.
Medvedev, the World No. 3, had foiled Djokovic from making ultimate history at Flushing Medaows two years ago, destroying the weighed-down Serb who was one match win away from becoming the first player in the Open Era to win a year-in Grand Slam. He played the role of the disruptor this year too, defeating 20-year-old top seed Carlos Alcaraz in the semifinal with one of the best performances of his career, denying fans the opportunity to witness another instalment of the cross-generational rivalry between Djokovic and Alcaraz that has had a captivating feel ever since Alcaraz defeated Djokovic in a five-set epic in the Wimbledon final this year.