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Novak Djokovic beat Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final (6/3 7/6 6/3) to clinch his 24th Grand Slam title. This win makes him the best player of all time without leaving any place for debate.

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The Djoker’s fans had reasons to be worried before the last game of the New York fortnight. What if the 2021 US Open final happened all over again? And what if Novak Djokovic came short like during his last encounter in Wimbledon? That didn’t happen. Nevertheless, when the world number one is on the verge of making history, he always has a hard time showing his best level of tennis. This time, a diminished version of Novak Djokovic was enough to crush Daniil Medvedev’s hope of a second Grand Slam title.

A lightning-fast first set.

A first rally of 19 shots set the tone of the encounter. Free points would be rare, and the rallies would be exhausting. Novak Djokovic won his first game of serve before Daniil Medvedev lost his. Lacking first balls, the latter offered his serve on a silver platter: 2/0. Since the Russian was too passive, he let his opponent in charge. Novak Djokovic dominated the rallies from his baseline: 3/1. The fifth game started a new dynamic. Daniil Medvedev won a 38-strikes long rally which exhausted his 36 years old rival. The latter won his game of serve by running towards the net in every point: 4/1. The following game illustrated the encounter’s physical dimension to come.  Long rallies piled up: Novak Djokovic lacked depth while Daniil Medvedev enjoyed those endless duels: 5/2. The Russian saved two break points to force the world number one to serve for the set. The Serbian led: 6/3.

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Daniil Medvedev’s first game of serve cost him a lot. Without this bad start, he could have taken the first set. His physical and defensive abilities could have disturbed Novak Djokovic. The latter played an almost perfect first set. His few unforced errors were counterbalanced by an aggressive, consistent, and constructed-forward tennis.

A second set of all dangers

The first minutes of the second set let us think that the final would come to an end quickly. Novak Djokovic won his game of serve easily while Daniil Medvedev had to battle for each one of his. The latter’s huge first serves counterbalanced his too numerous unforced errors: 3/3. The Russian saved a first break point with a forehand volley. Then, they played a 31-strikes rally that left the Serbian on the ground. Exhausted, he couldn’t match the level of his opponent anymore: 4/3. Novak Djokovic was held back by his physical form. A string of double faults and a missed dropshot gave a break point to his rival. It was saved by an out-of-this-world cross-court volley. The Djoker picked up the score thanks to his abilities at the net: 4/4. Long rallies from the back of the court weren’t an option for the Serb anymore. Novak Djokovic’s last games of serve were a torture: far behind the baseline, he underwent the rallies. His lack of depth made the task too easy for this opponent. He owned his survival in the set to his flawless serves-and-volleys: 6/6.

Daniil Medvedev had the upper hand over his opponent at the beginning of the tiebreak. He led 2-0 after a backhand error from Novak Djokovic. The Russian didn’t keep his mini break for long. A return that landed in his foot was enough to get his opponent back on track: 3-2. With barely any energy left, Novak Djokovic managed to win his serve points. Daniil Medvedev easily did the same: 6/5. An unexpected unforced error from the Russian gave the set to the world number one.

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This set seemed destined to Daniil Medvedev – who once again missed out on this opportunity. He just waited for his opponent to make mistakes whereas he should have played an aggressive tennis. Novak Djokovic is never as dangerous than when his back is against the wall. His ability to serve-and-volley point after point saved him. Those easy and short rallies allowed him to save energy.

A last set written in advance.

The second set wasn’t without consequences. The two men needed time to digest the last 105 minutes. Games went by without being flaming: 2/1. Three unforced errors from Daniil Medvedev gave his game of serve to Novak Djokovic – who didn’t ask for that much. The latter returned the favor in the next game made of errors and a double fault: 3/2. The Djoker just needed a minute to find back his usual focus. He got another chance to take the lead thanks to a backhand down the line that brushed the court’s limits. Novak Djokovic led 4/2 after another unforced error from Daniil Medvedev. He confirmed his advantage with a love game: 5/2. The Russian – who was now dominated in every area of the game – forced his rival to serve for the championship: 5/3. Djokernole didn’t give up his winning strategy. He ran to the net during the first two points of the game. Energized, Novak Djokovic won an endless rally that gave him a first match point – which was enough.

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A few minutes later, Novak Djokovic had no reason to control his emotions. Curled up on the biggest court of the world, the world number one started sobbing. This record-win erases all his bad memories at Flushing-Meadows: his failure to achieve the Calendar Grand Slam, his disqualification and finals that slipped out of his hands.

The bests moments of the 2023 US Open final

Novak Djokovic can continue his quest for records with one less on the list. The only question remaining isn’t if he will beat them all but rather when.

Marnie Abbou

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