Djokovic and Del Potro Restore Order and Respect at US Open


By Scoop Malinowski

A day after one of the most unfortunate finals in Grand Slam history, Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro restored respect and class to professional tennis with their thrilling confrontation.

Djokovic prevailed 63 76 63 by virtue of a devastating display of machine like efficiency and pinpoint accuracy. When Djokovic is operating at his highest level there is no man from history who can topple him.

The spectacular Serbian now has established winning head to head records vs Federer, Nadal and Del Potro, at 15-4. Djokovic has won the last four matches against the Argentine since their epic first round Olympic battle in Rio in 2016, won by Juan Martin 76 76, which featured both players crying on the court after, having completely drained themselves physically and emotionally in one of the best yet forgotten clashes of the decade.

Today only Del Potro shed tears when it was over, his spirit crushed because he was playing so well all fortnight and he had such enormous, animated support from the many Argentines inside Ashe but it was not enough to propel the “Gentle Giant” to his fifth career win over Djokovic. To consider how well Del Potro was playing before today, consider that John McEnroe confidently predicted before the match began that Del Potro was going to spring the big upset.

The unlikely win looked possible in the middle of the second set, in the over 16 minute eighth game which Djokovic finally held to level at 4-4. Interestingly the sudden end of the game came after a short delay provoked by Djokovic about the number of balls on the court. The momentary pause discombobulated Delpo’s timing as he lost the next two points on errors. Djokovic eventually won the second set tiebreaker and the third set 36.

“I’m very sad for being a loser today,” said Del Potro. “But Novak deserved to take the trophy. He played a great match, very smart game. I had my opportunities during the second and third set.  But I was playing almost at the limit all the time, looking for winners with my forehands, backhands, and I couldn’t make it because Novak was there every time. He’s a great champion. So I’m glad for him.”

The two shared a long, warm embrace at net and then another a few minutes later when Djokovic visited the despondent Delpo at his chair and held him from behind and whispered something private into his ear. The two champions showed a special bond that the other super champions of today do not express in the heat of battle.

Djokovic has now on 14 major titles (three US Opens), tying him with Pete Sampras, with only Federer (20) and Nadal (17) ahead of him.   The win also moves Djokovic to no. 2 in the ATP Race To London and within striking distance of Nadal. Shanghai Masters now looms vitally important to who will hold the world no. 1 ranking. Right now Djokovic owns 6,445 points, while the Spaniard has 7,480.

The $3.8 million payday for Djokovic also helps him to surpass Federer as the all time career earnings leader.

But most of all, the sport of tennis enjoyed a sensational final exhibiting superb tennis, sportsmanship, class and honor, unlike the sad turn of events from a day earlier.






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  • Duke Carnoustie · September 9, 2018 at 9:54 pm

    Scoop, I will comment about Katrina Adams’ nonsensical comments on another post but I want to make a post about this match and this U.S. Open.

  • Duke Carnoustie · September 9, 2018 at 10:18 pm

    A great champion was crowned once again in Flushing Meadow tonight. But halfway across the country, another champion was crowned and the two are somewhat related.

    The inaugural Oracle Challenge was won by Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan on Sunday in Chicago. He capped a run of five straight-set victories by ousting Reilly Opelka. It has been heady days for Istomin, who won the Asian Games for the first time to earn a berth in the 2020 Olympics and then flew to New York for the Open and a first-round loss to Steve Johnson a few days later.

    That Asian Games victory over the sobbing Chinese teenager Wu Yibing may be considered the biggest win of his career. Another candidate may be Istomin’s stunning five-set win over Novak Djokovic in the 2017 Australian Open.

    There was nothing to foreshadow that victory. Yes, Djokovic flopped in a two-day match vs. Querrey at Wimbledon the year before but he had reached the final in Flushing to cap that season – his third Slam final after capturing the Aussie crown and his first at RG.

    In fact, Djokovic had won 41 of his previous 42 matches in Melbourne with the only blemish a 9-7, fifth-set defeat to eventual champion Stan Wawrinka in 2014. The Djoker had also dispatched the dangerous Fernando Verdasco in straight sets in round one.

    Yet something was off that night to those who watched as a muted Djokovic was up two sets to one before collapsing. It was and remains a puzzling defeat because the power, poise and conviction was not there in a marathon match that featured an 85-minute first set that Djokovic lost and put on display a player non-descript compared to the dominant machine that held all four majors just a short time earlier.

    This year, Djokovic has made references to his problems from last year and not merely physical ones. He was blasted off the court by Dominic Thiem in the quarters in Paris and barely lasted more than a set in that same round at Wimbledon against Tomas Berdych. Yet the passivity shown in that Istomin match remains one of his low points in the last two years.

    Fast forward to today. Another long set, a 95-minute affair, was won by Djokovic over Juan Martin Del Potro for an unassailable two-set lead.

    In a four-tournament span, the beast has been unleashed. He silenced a hostile crowd at Wimbledon in a match against Edmund and then outlasted Rafa Nadal in a semifinal for the ages. After falling to the rising Stefanos Tsitsipas in Toronto, Djokovic showed the grit and tenacity that is his hallmark in winning four times in three-set affairs before straight-setting Roger Federer to complete the feat as the only man to capture all the Masters crowns.

    In New York, Djokovic faced adversity right from the start. Drawing one of the toughest opponents he could face in round one in Hungarian Marton Fucsovics, the match was even at a set apiece before Fucsovics took a 4-2 lead in the third in brutal heat. Djokovic looked beaten on every changeover but won the final 10 games to move on.

    That would mark the only trouble for Djokovic all tournament, as he lost only one more set the rest of the way – after being two sets up and letting the rising U.S. star Tennys Sandgren sneak out a tiebreaker. That almost felt like a loss for Djokovic to concede a set based on his post-match demeanor.

    After that, there was no denying the Serb. The 95-minute second set vs. Del Potro was the only other set that would go to a tiebreaker for Djokovic in this tournament. The great Federer lost his nerve and may have subconsciously tanked before an anticipated meeting in the quarterfinals. No matter. Roger would have been straight-setted himself as well.

    Looking back, we may never find out why we saw the Djokovic on display against Istomin at that Aussie Open. The one we see now is comparable to the man who first in 2011 and then in 2015 set an unassailable bar for tennis. Nobody has played tennis at a higher level than Novak Djokovic.

  • Thomas Tung · September 10, 2018 at 12:00 am

    When Federer is on, you become a “glorified spectator”.

    When Nadal is on, you feel like you have a few chances, even if the end is not in doubt.

    When Djokovic is on, it’s time to reach for your poison of choice (Scotch or Vodka for me).

    This win was big for Novak — solidifying on the impressive Wimbledon run, and definitively letting the field know that the “Novak of old” is back, and here to stay.

    Side note: we’re so blessed to live in an age where three of the greatest tennis players (so far in history) are all playing at the same time …

  • Duke Carnoustie · September 10, 2018 at 4:09 am

    Djokovic has won 22 of his last 23 matches since the start of SW19. He has beaten in that span Nadal, Fed, Anderson, DelPo, Nishikori twice, Cilic, Raonic, Dimitrov, Khachanov, Edmund, Gasquet and Sandgren twice.

    Not many have been spared Djokination!

  • Gaurang · September 10, 2018 at 8:27 am

    Scoop, glad you caught that —- “a short delay provoked by Djokovic about the number of balls on the court”. I think that was the turning point of the match. Delpo was playing very well, and in most likelihood Djoker was going to lose that game. Delpo had built up a strong competitive energy and focus. However, going to the umpire and Nole to discuss the ball issue in a friendly way diffused the competitive streak he had built up — he didnt play that well for the next couple of games, and that was enough for Nole to bounce back.

    Delpo never was able to bring back that level again. If he would have maintained that level, the match could have been completely different. Delpo would have won the second set and could have turned the match around completely.

  • Gaurang · September 10, 2018 at 8:28 am

    For Nole, the main threats he has are: Kyrgios, Tsitsipas, Zverev, Thiem, Wawrinka. I would like to see him win against these players to know how he is going to perform the next year.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 10, 2018 at 9:42 am

    Bullseye on the Fed Rafa Djok torture chamber comparisons.

  • catherine · September 10, 2018 at 9:46 am

    Oh and by the way Ash Barty and Coco won the women’s doubles. They should stick together as a team.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 10, 2018 at 10:52 am

    Catherine, I think they have been together most of the year. Barty finally wins her first major after four previous final failures. Coco’s first too I believe. MAttek Sands won mixed with Murray. So another good US Open for American tennis with SOck and Bryan also winning.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 10, 2018 at 10:54 am

    Duke I don’t see anyone threatening Djokovic in 2019. He is going to rampage through the ATP World Tour until Tsitsipas or Zverev can step up. Thiem too is a possibility as he looked spectacular in NY this year. I can see Djokovic winning the next four majors in a row, for six in a row. Which would put him at 18 total, just two behind Roger and one ahead of Rafa. Delpo said yesterday that he can see Djokovic passing Federer’s 20 mark.

  • Sam · September 10, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    “Interestingly the sudden end of the game came after a short delay provoked by Djokovic about the number of balls on the court. The momentary pause discombobulated Delpo’s timing as he lost the next two points on errors.”

    Didn’t realize this. Did he have a good point about the number of balls? Could this also be considered gamesmanship?

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 10, 2018 at 6:45 pm

    Sam, it looked like a contrived subtle sneaky bit of gamesmanship by Djokovic. Like Rod Laver said years after he retired that he actually used subtle gamesmanship sometimes in the form of bending over to re-tie his shoe laces on the court. All it takes is that few seconds of delay to disturb the opponent’s rhythm. Djokovic is a master at controlling the match rhythm as he has shown with his very varied ball bouncing routine pre-serve. The stunner was how well it worked vs Delpo. Delpo netted a shot in a short rally on the next deuce point then made another error on the ad in point. No doubt he was disturbed or subconsciously disturbed by Djokovic’s about 25 second ball quantity/quality ploy with the chair umpire.

  • Sam · September 10, 2018 at 7:16 pm

    Thanks for the info, Scoop. Laver aside, is this kind of subtle gamesmanship pretty common among the top players?

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 10, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    I would say quite a few have their subtle gamesmanship tricks. Federer with slow walk to change his racquet in the 3-3 or 3-4 game. Rafter with his Sorry mate errant ball tosses. Seles did that too along with her grunting. Rafa’s preserve routine is a delay. Lendl use to pluck his eyelash sometimes to stall. Some players use a symphony of different grunt noises, even on the same point. Some players time their grunts on contact and then sometimes even after contact to disrupt the opponent’s timing. Some players do a double grunt on each strike, one player Jovana Jaksik even did a triple grunt! Ivanovic tried the squeaky shoes on the return of serve in one major. This is just off the top of my head.

  • Sam · September 10, 2018 at 10:06 pm

    Thanks for all the details. 🙂



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