Novak Djokovic has equalled Pete Sampras and edged closer to Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer with his 14th grand slam title.
The Serb was too good for Juan Martin del Potro in the US Open final, prevailing 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 in a thrilling encounter.
The victory is Djokovic’s third at the US Open, and moves him equal-third with Sampras on the male grand slam titles list.
“You’re my idol, I love you,” Djokovic said of Sampras after the match.
Federer (20) and Nadal (17) are the only players with more major titles than Djokovic and Sampras.
The victory will also boost Djokovic to No.3 in the world rankings behind Nadal and Federer.
Del Potro put up as strong as a fight as you’ll see in a straight-set win, but it was Djokovic’s day.
Breaking del Potro’s fearsome serve four times, Djokovic won thanks to his always strong return game and an unexpectedly aggressive game at the net.
Djokovic ended up approaching the net 36 times, more than double the total of the six-foot-six del Potro.
It was a lengthy match despite the two players playing just three sets, ending after three hours and 15 minutes of play.
Even with Sunday’s disappointing result, del Potro’s performance in New York City was laudatory given what the Argentinian has gone through since his triumph at the US Open in 2009.
Rendered ineffective for years due to wrist issues, del Potro made his first Grand Slam final since that win over Roger Federer nearly a decade ago.
Djokovic’s win hinged on a pivotal game in the second set
There may have been no game more important to Djokovic’s win or simply entertaining than the eighth game of the second set.
Djokovic broke del Potro early in the set to take a commanding position, but del Potro later broke him back and looked on the verge of taking full control of the match’s momentum.
After holding his serve with ease, an amped-up del Potro aggressively attacked Djokovic from the baseline in the next game.
The two reached deuce eight different times, with Djokovic saving three break points. The Serbian eventually came out on top in a game that took 21 minutes to play and made it 4-4 in the second set, but not before we were blessed with this incredible reaction from Meryl Streep.
Both players held serve for the rest of the set, then Djokovic won the tiebreaker 7-4 to go up 2-0 on sets to end del Potro’s best chance of pulling off what would have been a shocking upset.
Where Novak Djokovic now ranks historically
Djokovic’s third US Open title also moves him into a tie for fifth all-time in men’s singles titles at New York City during the Open Era, joining Nadal, Oliver Campbell, Ivan Lendl and Fred Perry.
Another US Open title would move the 31-year-old into a tie with John McEnroe for fourth, behind only Sampras, Federer and Jimmy Connors.
It’s clear Djokovic is already one of tennis’ all-time greats, but the question now, as it has been for years, is how much more ground he can make up on Federer and Nadal in the Slams race.
His chances might be decent considering he’s looking as surgical as ever at age 31, and he took yet another step forward Sunday at Flushing Meadows.