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

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.”


Manchester United end Liverpool’s winning run in 1-1 draw

Manchester United’s Andreas Pereira, left, and Liverpool’s Georginio Wijnaldum during their match in Manchester on Sunday. (AP)
Updated 21 October 2019

Manchester United end Liverpool’s winning run in 1-1 draw

  • Adam Lallana’s late equalizer saves the European champions from a shock defeat

Liverpool failed to record a record-equalling 18th straight Premier League win, but Adam Lallana’s late equalizer saved the European champions from a shock defeat at Manchester United in a 1-1 draw on Sunday. Marcus Rashford’s controversial goal handed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s struggling Red Devils a 1-0 half-time lead, but they could not hold out for a much-needed victory as they left substitute Lallana unmarked at the back post to level with five minutes to play.
Liverpool move 6 points clear of Manchester City at the top of the table, but will still feel this was a missed opportunity to inflict more pain on a United side sitting 13th in the Premier League, just two points off the relegation zone.
The two most successful sides in English football could not have come into the game in more contrasting form.
However, United answered Solskjaer’s calls to rise to the occasion.
Liverpool were without Mohamed Salah through injury and the Egyptian’s pace and trickery was badly missed.
The visitors were able to welcome back goalkeeper Alisson Becker for the first time in two months after a calf injury, but the Brazilian was rarely tested as United were happy to sit back and counter-attack.
Solskjaer changed his formation to a 3-5-2 in an attempt to limit Liverpool’s flying full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson and it was largely effective as the hosts restricted the league leaders to precious few chances.
Liverpool’s best opening before the break came when Sadio Mane finally found some space to counter-attack, but from his cut-back Roberto Firmino fired too close to David de Gea.
United had not scored in their two previous matches prior to the international break, but finally produced a moment of quality going forward to take the lead, even if fortune was also on their side for the goal to stand.
Victor Lindelof looked to have upended Divock Origi on halfway, but no foul was given by Martin Atkinson and as United broke forward, Daniel James’s cross perfectly picked out Rashford to prod past Alisson.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was furious on the touchline even before a VAR review failed to overturn the decision.
The visitors’ frustration only grew moments later when Mane outmuscled Lindelof to turn in what he thought was an equalizer, only for VAR to this time rule the goal out for a handball by the Senegalese.
Klopp sprinted down the touchline at the half-time whistle, but was unable to change the pattern of the game after the interval as Liverpool continued to dominate possession without creating many chances.