Battle scars speckled his right elbow and roars from a boisterous crowd were ringing in his ears.
A fourth set once so firmly in Novak Djokovic’s grasp was suddenly a stress test as he stared down break points serving for the US Open title for a second time.
On this night, the world No. 1 withstood wounds and roars with an unbreakable spirit and timely strikes.
Playing with calm defiance, Djokovic fought off second-ranked Roger Federer, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, and won over the fans in the process capturing his second US Open title and 10th Grand Slam championship.
A night that began with Djokovic joining Hall of Famer Rod Laver and Federer as the third man in the Open Era to contest all four Grand Slam finals in one year ended with the Serbian solidifying his status as the world’s premier player winning the battle between the world’s top two players.
For the second time in five years, Djokovic has claimed three Grand Slam titles in a single season.
“It’s been an incredible season—next to 2011 probably the best season of my life,” Djokovic told the crowd afterward. “I’m enjoying this season more than anyone because I’m a husband and a father and this makes it sweeter. I love this sport. As Roger said: If we didn’t have a love or passion for this sport we wouldn’t be here.”
Contesting his first US Open final since 2009, Federer overcome a sluggish start with stretches of crackling shot-making.
The 34-year-old Swiss was playing to become the first player in the Open Era to win six US Open championships and the oldest US Open champion since 35-year-old Ken Rosewall in 1970.
Ultimately, this was a match of lost opportunities for Federer as Djokovic fended off 19 of 23 break points he faced, including five of six break points in the fourth set.
“Surely I am very disappointed,” Federer said in his post-match press conference. “I had my chances on my racquet. I should have never been down in the score the way I was. But Novak did a great job of fending them off. It was a tough night, but still, I don’t know, thrilling at the same time.”
A three-hour rain delay left both players and fans eager for action—and created cooler, slower conditions that favored the younger man. An unsettled Federer withstood three break points navigating a tricky seven-minute game to open. The second seed saved two more break points in the third game. An unrelenting Djokovic continued firing away at Federer’s one-handed backhand, eventually drawing the error to break for 2-1.
Slipping trying to change direction while chasing down a drop volley, Djokovic crashed to the court. His racquet went flying, his right arm, hand and knee all suffered scrapes by the jarring fall. Looking like a man banged up by a rugby scrum, Djokovic was bleeding from cuts on his right elbow and hand as Federer broke back.
Following the fall, Djokovic lost six of seven points then called for the trainer to stop the bleeding. Bruising his opponent’s serve with deep returns, Djokovic drilled a backhand pass down the line breaking again for 4-3.
Broken just twice in six matches en route to the final, Federer surrendered serve twice in his first four service games as both his serve and backhand betrayed him at times. Serving for the set, Djokovic slammed down a love hold when Federer netted a backhand on the second set point. Federer nearly doubled Djokovic’s error output (15 to 8) in the 41-minute opener in dropping his first set since falling to Djokovic in the Wimbledon final in July.
Unleashing a backhand winner off the SABR return, Federer backed it up with a backhand winner down the opposite sideline, eventually earning triple break point. Djokovic denied five break points in a grinding seven-minute game muting the crowd and Federer’s challenge for 1-all.
As the second set escalated, both men were striking with more conviction and holding with less stress. In the 10th game, Djokovic fended off one set point before Federer flashed a backhand pass down the line for a second. Dancing up to a mid-court ball, Federer lined up his favored forehand but sent the shot beyond the baseline over-hitting out of respect for the Serbian’s speed. Wife Mirka, hands clasped as if in prayer, knocked both hands against her forehand ruing opportunity lost. A defiant Djokovic fought through the 20-point game than spanned more than 13 minutes finally holding to level at 5-all.
Zapping an inside-out forehand, Federer earned two more set points. Stepping into the court, he cracked a crosscourt forehand snatching the 62-minute second set and sending his box, including coach Stefan Edberg and wife Mirka, leaping out of their seats throwing clenched fists right back at him.
Creeping forward to take returns on the rise, Federer rushed Djokovic earning two break points in the eighth game, but could not convert. Empowered by that stand, the top seed made a couple of leaping gets to extend a point, and got help when Federer hit a volley off a potential out ball. When the Swiss scattered a backhand crosscourt, Djokovic snatched his second break of the set for 5-4.
Serving for the set, a stubborn Djokovic denied two more break points. By then the Serbian had staved off 14 of the 17 break points he faced. Sliding a wide serve to push Federer off the perimeter, Djokovic sealed the third set. After two hours, 33 minutes of play he was one set from his first US Open title in four years.
Frustration and fatigue began gnawing at Federer, who hit more winners, earned more break points and won more total points in the third set only to see Djokovic elevate his game and emotion at critical stages. Targeting his opponent’s one-handed backhand, the top seed plagued that wing with persistence drawing successive errors to open the fourth set with a break. Federer won 39 of 59 nets points in the match, including 13 of 16 in the final set, but the depth of Djokovic’s drives sometimes diminished his willingness to move forward.
“I think it was the right game plan,” Federer said. “Just execution sometimes was missing in some crucial moments. But other than that, I think I played a good match. Maybe I haven’t played this offensive for a very long time and that’s maybe the reasons as well why maybe I was slightly shaky when it came to the crunch on the break points. Who knows?”
Creating another break point chance in the sixth game, Federer had Djokovic unsettled on the baseline, but missed the mark trying to paste the sideline with a forehand. Djokovic withstood that challenge cracking his second ace holding for 4-2. A blistering backhand pass gave Djokovic the break for 5-2, but Federer was in no mood for concession. He broke back then incited a roar from the crowd ripping a forehand into the corner to close the gap to 4-5.
Serving for the title for a second time, Djokovic made another determined stand saving three more break points. When Federer’s final forehand return sailed long concluding the three hour, 20-minute skirmish, Djokovic pointed at his support box, including wife Jelena and coach Boris Becker, acknowleding their support amid a vocal pro-Federer crowd.
Then the champion climbed up into the box embracing his support team before walking through the crowd giving fans the ultimate photo-op as he made his walk back down to court. – See more at: http://www.tennisnow.com/News/2015/September/Djokovic-Fights-Off-Federer-In-US-Open-Final-for-1.aspx#sthash.G5sm9HRD.dpuf