by Rebecca BRYAN
Novak Djokovic was thrilled to match Pete Sampras with a 14th Grand Slam title on the US Open on Sunday, however he mentioned it’s Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal who’ve made him the participant he’s.
“Pete Sampras is one of the biggest legends ever to play the game,” Djokovic mentioned after incomes a 3rd US Open crown with a 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-Three victory over Juan Martin del Potro.
“He was my childhood idol. He was someone I was looking up to. The first actual thing I saw related to tennis on the TV was his first or second Wimbledon championship. That inspired me to start playing tennis. There is a lot of significance of me being now shoulder to shoulder in terms of Grand Slam wins with him.”
The victory places Djokovic three Slam wins away from Nadal’s 17 and 6 behind Federer’s report 20.
It would additionally see him rise to quantity three on the earth behind Nadal and Federer – the rankings once more reflecting the “Big Three” standing they’ve shared for therefore lengthy.
Djokovic had tumbled down the rankings, slowed final yr by an elbow damage and a lack of confidence that accompanied a 54-week title drought.
An unimaginable 2018 for Novak Djokovic
Since bursting out of the slump with an surprising Wimbledon title he has gone from energy to energy, including a long-awaited Cincinnati Masters title to his resume earlier than including the US Open title to these he gained in 2011 and 2015.
Novak Djokovic confronted neither of his biggest rivals en path to the title in Flushing Meadows. Seeded to face Federer within the quarter-finals, he discovered himself as a substitute throughout the web from John Millman after the unheralded Australian surprised the Swiss nice.
Nadal hobbled out of a semi-final match towards Del Potro after two units. Djokovic would have relished taking up both – or each, though he admits that early in his profession that wasn’t always the case.
“Maybe 10 years ago I would say I’m not so happy to be part of this era with Nadal and Federer. Today I really am. I feel like these guys, rivalries with these guys, matches with Federer and Nadal, have made me the player I am, have shaped me into the player I am today. I owe it to them.”
Djokovic’s highway to US Open glory
Though he was driving excessive coming into the Open, Djokovic was among the many many scuffling with crushing warmth and humidity within the first week.
He wanted 4 units to get previous 41st-ranked Hungarian Marton Fucsovics within the first spherical and one other to get previous 61st-ranked American Tennys Sandgren within the second.
He picked up the tempo with straight-sets victories over France’s Richard Gasquet, Portugal’s Joao Sousa, Millman and 2014 finalist Kei Nishikori to reach at a title tilt with good good friend Del Potro.
After seizing an early break within the second set, Novak Djokovic out of the blue discovered himself on the run, dropping three straight video games earlier than he dug in to salvage a service maintain in a 20-minute marathon sport that went to deuce eight occasions.
The gang was roaring for sentimental favorite Del Potro – shut out of Grand Slam finals since his 2009 US Open triumph. Djokovic mentioned it was the sort of heavyweight conflict he’s realized to embrace:
“This may sound humorous, however my nickname is Nole. After they shout ‘Ole, ole, ole, ole’, that’s what I hear. I assumed it was electrifying in some phases of the match, particularly within the second set once we went toe-to-toe. I had my nook, as effectively.
“When the roof is closed, belief me, it’s very, very loud down there. It takes a whole lot of effort to truly keep poised on this second. I’m glad I managed to do this.”