Novak Djokovic wins US Open for 14th major, tying ‘idol’ Pete Sampras

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Novak Djokovic celebrates his victory over Juan Martin del Potro which saw him take his Grand Slam tally to 14. (AFP)
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Novak Djokovic of Serbia (R) and Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina (L) pose with their trophies after their 2018 US Open men's singles final match on September 9, 2018 in New York. (AFP)
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Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates his victory over Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina during their 2018 US Open men's singles final match on September 9, 2018 in New York.(AFP / Kena Betancur)
Updated 10 September 2018
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Novak Djokovic wins US Open for 14th major, tying ‘idol’ Pete Sampras

  • A year after missing the US Open because of an injured right elbow, Djokovic showed that he is unquestionably back at the top of tennis
  • This was Djokovic’s third championship in New York, having won in 2011 and 2015

NEW YORK: The US Open final suddenly appeared to be slipping away from Novak Djokovic. He dropped three consecutive games. He was barking at himself, at his entourage, at a crowd vocally supporting his opponent, Juan Martin del Potro. He was, in short, out of sorts.
And then came Sunday’s pivotal game, a 20-minute, 22-point epic. Three times, del Potro was a point from breaking and earning the right to serve to make it a set apiece. Three times, Djokovic steeled himself. Eventually, he seized that game — and del Potro’s best chance to make a match of it.
A year after missing the US Open because of an injured right elbow that would require surgery, Djokovic showed that he is unquestionably back at his best and back at the top of tennis. His returns and defense-to-offense skills as impeccable as ever, Djokovic collected his 14th Grand Slam title and second in a row by getting through every crucial moment for a 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-3 victory over 2009 champion del Potro at Flushing Meadows.
“There was always part of me that imagined and believed and hoped that I can get back (to) the desired level of tennis very soon,” said Djokovic, whose operation was in February. “But at the same time, life showed me that it takes time for good things, it takes time to really build them, for things to fall into place, so you can center yourself, balance yourself and thrive. The last two months have been terrific.”
This was Djokovic’s third championship in New York, along with those in 2011 and 2015. Add in the trophies he has earned at six Australian Opens, one French Open and four Wimbledons, most recently in July, and the 31-year-old Serb pulled even with Pete Sampras for the third-most majors among men, trailing only Roger Federer’s 20 and Rafael Nadal’s 17.
““He’s my idol. Pete, I love you,” Djokovic said.
Federer lost in the fourth round in New York, while Nadal retired from his semifinal against del Potro because of a bad right knee. That put the 29-year-old Argentine back in a Grand Slam final for the first time since his breakthrough nine years ago, a comeback for a guy who had four wrist operations in the interim.
“I believe he’ll be here again with the champion’s trophy. I really do,” said Djokovic, who gave his pal a hug at the net, and then went over to console del Potro as he wiped away tears at his sideline seat.
Del Potro spoke this week about the low point, in 2015, when he considered quitting the sport. But supported by a dozen or so friends from back home, whose “Ole!” choruses rang around the arena, he climbed up the rankings to a career-high No. 3 by thundering his 100 mph (160 kph) forehands and 135 mph (215 kph) serves.
Those produce free points against so many foes. Not against Djokovic, who always seemed to have all the answers — and who said he convinced himself that all of those “Oles” were actually people calling out his own nickname, “Nole.”
Djokovic was better than del Potro on their many lengthy exchanges, using his trademark body-twisting, limb-splaying court coverage to get to nearly every ball, sneakers squeaking around the blue court in Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the roof was closed because of rain.
“I was playing almost at the limit, all the time, looking for winners with my forehands, backhands, and I couldn’t make it,” del Potro said, “because Novak (was) there every time.”
Never was that more apparent than the game that stood out on this evening, with Djokovic serving while down 4-3 in the second set. They went back and forth, through eight deuces and all those break opportunities for del Potro, until he slapped one forehand into the net, and another sailed wide.
Those were high-risk shots, but, as del Potro put it: “It’s the only way to beat these kind of players.”
Djokovic’s coach, Marian Vajda, called that moment the match’s “turning point, obviously.”
When it ended, with Djokovic holding to 4-all, spectators began leaving their seats, perhaps thinking it was time for a changeover, even though it wasn’t. That prompted to chair umpire Alison Hughes to chastise them.
It was a brief request, though, unlike her many other pleas for quiet, mainly as fans were shouting and chanting and clapping in support of del Potro. It all bothered Djokovic, who started yelling and gesturing toward the seats. At one moment, he pressed his right index finger to his lips, as if to say, “Shhhhhhh!” Later, after winning a point, Djokovic put that finger to his ear, as if to say, “Who are you cheering for now?!“
The tiebreaker was resolved thanks to more del Potro miscues on his forehand side, as he looked more and more fatigued. He made one last stand by breaking and holding for 3-all. But that was that.
When it ended, thanks to a three-game closing run by Djokovic, he flung his racket away and landed on his back, arms and legs spread wide.
He had hit his peak, Vajda said, at “just at the right time.”
Djokovic had never gone through an extended absence until 2017, when he sat out the second half of the season because of elbow pain that had plagued him for more than a year. He tried to return at the start of this season, but couldn’t, and opted for surgery.
It took him some time to find the right form, as evidenced by his quarterfinal loss at the French Open to a guy who was ranked 72nd and had never won a Grand Slam match until that tournament.
“I was very, very disappointed with my performance that day,” Djokovic recalled Sunday, explaining that he went hiking in the mountains in France to clear his head after that setback.
Djokovic then got right back to work, and announced that he was, once more, himself by winning Wimbledon.
Now he’s backed that up at the US Open, the fourth time in his career he won multiple majors in a season.
“Difficult times, but you learn through adversity,” Djokovic said. “I try to take the best out of myself in those moments.”


Anthony Joshua ready for Deontay Wilder but promoter wants no more delay

Updated 23 September 2018
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Anthony Joshua ready for Deontay Wilder but promoter wants no more delay

  • Joshua successfully defended his International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Association and World Boxing Organization belts
  • Joshua has repeatedly stressed he wants to fight fellow undefeated champion Wilder

LONDON: Britain’s Anthony Joshua believes his long-awaited clash with fellow world heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder will take place as it would be “silly not to.”
But promoter Eddie Hearn has warned a deal must be agreed quickly if the American is to be Joshua’s next opponent.
Joshua successfully defended his International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Association and World Boxing Organization belts with brutal a seventh-round stoppage of Alexander Povetkin at London’s Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
He is already booked in to box again at Wembley on April 13, but the question of an opponent has still to be resolved.
Joshua has repeatedly stressed he wants to fight fellow undefeated champion Wilder, who holds the World Boxing Council version of the heavyweight title, next.
“We have to fight, it would be silly not to” Joshua told reporters after inflicting the first stoppage-loss of Povetkin’s professional career.
Wilder, however, is next due to face Britain’s former world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury on December 1.
Talks between the Joshua and Wilder camps have stalled and Hearn is worried a fight that will be worth far more than the “peanuts” of an initially offered $50 million could be derailed.
If Fury beats Wilder, the American’s re-match clause would likely be activated, delaying both boxers from facing Joshua, the London 2012 Olympic champion who now has a professional record of 22 wins from 22 fights, with 21 knockouts.
“Being British, we’d like Fury to win, but for April, Wilder must win if that’s going to happen,” said Hearn.
“We’re not willing to wait until December to see. A deal must be done in advance of that, subject to him winning.
“But now, after 80,000 (the estimated crowd at Wembley) and the worldwide exposure and after the finish (against Povetkin) that offer (made previously, by the Wilder camp) will look like absolute peanuts when this fight is made.”
“That is the biggest fight in boxing; Wilder-Fury is a really good fight to see who’s the second best heavyweight in the world. Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko was the biggest fight in British boxing history, and Joshua-Wilder would eclipse that. We want that now.”
Hearn insisted: “We’re not waiting for time-wasters; we understand if they lose we’ll have to find another opponent, but if you win, we’re not waiting until December.
“These aren’t negotiations that will take 24 hours, and Joshua’s career is not being slowed down. If they don’t want to do that, we’ll fight someone else.”
Fury has previously said on social media that Joshua will never fight him but Hearn witheringly added: “Tyson Fury is the least entertaining fighter I’ve ever seen.
“He’s never been in a good fight, apart from against Steve Cunningham (in 2013), when he got knocked down.”
Meanwhile the 28-year-old Joshua said he too had no intention of being messed about by Wilder.
“If Wilder’s not serious, there’s other people out there; when he’s ready, we’re ready.”
Joshua added: “Good luck to them both (Wilder and Fury) — boxing needs it.
“I’ve had the burden of the heavyweight division on my back for some years, because it was all about me fighting Wilder, Fury, Klitschko, Dillian (Whyte), Povetkin. That’s all they were interested in — me fighting them all.
“So I’m happy those two are fighting. April 13 is booked, so whichever heavyweight is serious, we can look at making a deal. I have no interest in who wins; I’m not fussed.”
Joshua was rocked by Povetkin, the 2004 Olympic champion, in the first round. But he insisted the 39-year-old Russian had not broken his nose.
“These guys the last thing they lose is their power, but it was a good way to wake up,” Joshua said.
As for what lay behind his own public appeal, Joshua added: “The appeal is losing — who is going to be the man to beat me? Sometimes you have to go in there and really earn your money.
“Povetkin was a tough challenger for sure, but I knew how to break him down.
“I wasn’t looking for the knockout but the instinct told he was hurt. I knew how to tidy up and I knew it was time to get out of there.”