Novak Djokovic would not let Daniil Medvedev spoil his date with history a second time.
This was after he battled past the Russian 6-3 7-6(5) 6-3 to win the U.S. Open on Sunday and equal Margaret Court’s record haul of 24 Grand Slams.
The victory, his fourth in 10 Flushing Meadows finals, capped another remarkable Grand Slam campaign for Djokovic with wins at the Australian, French and U.S. Opens.
It also meant he would make a return to the top of the world rankings when they are updated on Monday.
The 36-year-old Serb becomes the oldest U.S. Open men’s winner in the Open Era and the first to win three Grand Slam events in a season for the fourth time.
“It obviously means the world to me. I’m really living my childhood dream.
“To make the history of this sport is something truly remarkable, it’s hard to describe the words.
“I had the childhood dream when I was 7, 8, I wanted to become the best player in the world,” said Djokovic about his 24th Slam.
It is, indeed, a dream that continues to come true as Djokovic has already won more Grand Slams than any man and now shares the overall record with Court.
After clinching his historic title, Djokovic threw his racquet in the air and dropped to his knees as the capacity crowd roared.
He would pick himself up and find his young daughter courtside for an emotional hug.
He then went back to the bench where he pulled out a T-shirt with “Mamba Forever” on the front and the number 24 on the back.
The shirt was a tribute to both his achievement and late friend Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, who wore the number throughout much of his all-star career before dying in a helicopter crash.
“I thought of doing this T-shirt, eventually, if I get the chance to win the tournament.
“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.
“I thought 24 is the jersey that he wore when he became a legend of Lakers and world basketball,” said Djokovic.
While Djokovic and Medvedev are intriguing figures, neither has been fully embraced by the New York crowds.
Until the end there was little of the electricity that crackled through Arthur Ashe during the women’s final on Saturday, with no clear support for either player from an attentive but subdued audience.
As the match started, Djokovic walked out on to court and stared across the net at Medvedev the man once again standing between him and history just as he had two years ago.
The last time the two clashed at the U.S. Open was in the 2021 final, when the Russian captured his only major and denied the Serb a rare calendar Grand Slam.
While Djokovic did not speak of revenge on the road to the final, the Serb is known to hold a grudge and only referenced that loss as a learning experience.
As expected in a contest featuring the sport’s two premier hardcourt players, almost every point was contested with long rallies as both men pounded away at each other from the baseline.
Djokovic came out playing with purpose and applied pressure right away breaking the third seed at the first opportunity on way to a 3-0 lead.
That would be the only break Djokovic would need against a surprisingly flat Medvedev who could not manufacture a single break chance in the first set.
During a marathon one hour and 44 minute, lung-bursting second set Medvedev would find life forcing a tiring Djokovic into long grinding point, after grinding point.
But the tireless Russian’s hard work would pay no dividends as he was unable to convert any of his few break chances, including one at 6-5 that would have given him the set.
Medvedev charged in front 3-1 of the tie-break but again could not land the knockout blow as Djokovic came off the ropes to take it 7-5 and a 2-0 lead.
If there is one thing Djokovic possesses it is a killer instinct and the Serb wasted no time striking breaking Medvedev to go up 3-1 in the third.
A defiant Medvedev answered with his first and only break of the match.
But it was not enough with Djokovic hitting right back with another break then holding serve the rest of the way to clinch the title.