Novak Djokovic is a double- digit Grand Slam winner. He added the 10th of his career Sunday night when he defeated Roger Federer in the U.S. Open final.
In denying Federer his 18th major victory, Djokovic scored a second straight win over the Grand Slam master, whom he beat in the Wimbledon final in July.
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Djokovic's 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory Sunday night was an exclamation mark on an extraordinary season in which he collected three Grand Slam titles and just missed the calendar year Grand Slam. Stan Wawrinka beat him in the French Open final. Djokovic also won three Slams in 2011.
"Playing against probably the best player in the history of the game puts a little more pressure on you when you come out for the match," said Djokovic, who evened his long-standing rivalry with Federer at 21-21. "I have tremendous respect for Roger. His level always is going to take the best out of me."
While disappointed with losing a second straight Grand Slam to Djokovic, Federer, 34, who vowed to return next year, said he was happy with the way he played. "I'm pleased where my game is at," he said. "Playing against a great champion like Novak, I knew it would be a challenge."
The match, scheduled to begin at Arthur Ashe Stadium just after 4 p.m., didn't get started until 7:20 after two separate rain showers conspired to delay play.
Federer's serve, which had been on point during the first six matches, misfired frequently in the first set, not what he was looking for against the greatest returner in the game. Djokovic broke him in the third game.
Djokovic gave up that break in the fourth game and also took a nasty fall. He was reacting to Federer's volley wide to his right when he slipped changing direction, banging his right elbow and knee and scraping both. Federer won the next two points to break and get back on serve.
Djokovic got the break he needed when Federer, up 30-0, make three straight errors and Djokovic took the next two points. There were several good Federer serves that Djokovic returned, deep and hard, that no other player in the game is capable of doing consistently.
After holding serve to start the second, Federer launched his first SABR (Sneak Attack By Roger) when he charged Djokovic's first second serve to win the point. He won the next two and had three break points, but Djokovic deflected each and held.
With Djokovic serving at 4-5, Federer earned himself a pair of set points and couldn't convert them. Federer was making inroads, though, and in the 12th game, he finally got a break when he screamed a backhand winner that Djokovic couldn't get close to, evening the match at a set each. Better for him still, his serve was becoming more effective and he was putting more pressure on Djokovic's serve.
In the eighth game of the third set, Federer came up with another pair of break points, but he made two groundstroke errors and allowed Djokovic to escape.
Federer couldn't escape in the next game, which Djokovic sent to deuce with a fabulous return followed by a fabulous get of Federer's next shot. He then claimed the break and held for the set.
The fourth set didn't go well for Federer from the start when Djokovic broke him in the first game. The points seemed to slip away quickly from Federer, and when he couldn't convert a break point in the sixth game, things looked bleak.
Again and again Djokovic returned his serve and drove Federer deep into the court. When Federer could get to the net, he couldn't handle enough volleys to make a difference. And Djokovic's serve bailed him out.
When Djokovic served for the match at 5-2 in the fourth, Federer earned a break and held for 5-4.
Then, as he had done all night, Djokovic fought off three break points while serving for the match again and beat his old foe.
Federer was philosophical, and upbeat, at the end. "We walk away from it knowing more about our games,'' he said, "and more about ourselves."