US Open Day 14: Djokovic unmatched

Serb wins all-time record 24 Grand Slam with win over Medvedev

Novak Djokovic / Finale US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Reem Abulleil

An A-list crowd turned up for the men’s US Open final in New York on Sunday, almost knowing they were about to witness history.

Every suite on Arthur Ashe stadium was jam-packed with star power; from Nicole Kidman to Leonardo di Caprio, Charlize Theron to Sting, Justin Timberlake to Lil Wayne, Lin-Manuel Miranda to Martha Stewart, Emma Roberts to Timothee Chalamet… Matthew McConaughey and his wife Camila, who weren’t in a hospitality suite but had one of the best views in the house from inside Novak Djokovic’s box.

Djokovic was facing Daniil Medvedev, the same player who denied him the chance to win a historic calendar-year Grand Slam at the very same stage two years ago.

But this time, Djokovic would not be denied as he downed the No.3 seed 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3 to equal Margaret Court’s haul and win an all-time record 24th Grand Slam trophy, and a fourth at the US Open.

In a matter of moments, Lacoste jackets emblazoned with the number 24 were donned by Djokovic and his family. For the 36-year-old, who has become the oldest US Open men’s singles champion in the Open Era, an even more special t-shirt was created for this iconic moment – one showing the faces of Djokovic and Kobe Bryant, with the words ‘Mamba forever’ printed across, and the number 24 at the back.

It was a nod to the late basketball legend, whose ‘mamba mentality’ touched so many lives, including Djokovic’s.

“Kobe was a close friend, we chatted a lot about the winner’s mentality when I was struggling with the injury and trying to make my comeback, work my way back to the top of the game. He was one of the people that I relied on the most,” said Djokovic during the trophy ceremony.

“He was always there for any kind of counsel, advice, any kind of support in the most friendly way. So of course what happened a few years ago, him and his daughter passing hurt me deeply.

“I thought 24 is the jersey that he wore when he became a legend of Lakers and world basketball so I thought it could be a nice symbolic thing to acknowledge him for all the things he’s done.”

Djokovic needed every ounce of Kobe’s mentality during a marathon 104-minute second set against Medvedev, who was edging the Serb in most of the lung-busting rallies they played and held a set point but ultimately fell short in the tiebreak.

A courageous Djokovic won 20 of 22 serve-and-volley points on Sunday, and was an impressive 37/44 at the net overall.

Novak Djokovic / Finale US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

The victory caps a tremendous four weeks for Djokovic in the United States, having made a successful return to American soil after a two-year absence, going 12-0 in matches to clinch the titles in Cincinnati and the US Open.

“I haven't played any tournament on American soil for two years, and the last time I was here I lost in the finals against the same player I beat today. I really did my best in the last 48 hours not to allow the importance of the moment and what's on the line get to my head, because two years ago that's what happened, and I underperformed and I wasn't able to be at my best and I was outplayed,” said Djokovic.

“So I learned my lesson. My team, my family knew that the last 24 hours, don't touch me, don't speak to me about the history of what's on the line.”

The strategy worked as Djokovic surpassed Serena Williams’ Grand Slam tally of 23 and now sits atop the all-time leaderboard alongside Court.

“To make the history of this sport is something truly remarkable and special. Obviously in every possible way, in every possible meaning of the word ‘special’,” said Djokovic, who has won three of the four majors this season, falling just one match short from the Grand Slam, having lost to Carlos Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final.

“I never imagined that I would be here talking about 24 Slams. I never thought that would be the reality, but the last couple of years I felt I have a chance, I have a shot at history, and why not grab it if it's presented?”

On his part, Medvedev, who was contesting his third US Open final in five years, is now 1-5 in major finals. Djokovic improved his head-to-head against him to 10-5.

“I was here two years ago when I won (the US Open against Novak) and I was like what a great anniversary gift for my wife and stuff like this and it’s funny because dates usually change but today is Sunday again, it’s the anniversary, so I thought like, ‘Come on, do it one more time’. But it didn’t happen,” joked Medvedev during his runner-up speech.

“From one side I can say, and really I find this amazing that I beat Novak in a Grand Slam final so that’s probably at this moment the pinnacle of my career. And at the same time maybe if he and Rafa didn’t exist, I played five finals against them and I only managed to win one, so I don’t know if it’s good or bad. But he pushes me to be better.”

Daniil Medvedev & Novak Djokovic / Finale US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Medvedev was coming off a huge victory over top seed and defending champion Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals and admits it was tough bringing out his best against Djokovic two days later.

The 27-year-old Monaco resident felt he was “stubborn” on return during the final – he had just three break points and converted only one of them – and believes winning the second set could have changed the course of the match.

“For sure pity that I didn't win the second set because I felt like I was all over him, like I was dominating in a way. Just should have done better,” said Medvedev.

Djokovic offered him some heartfelt words of consolation during his speech, saying: “I know that there is a lot more for you to achieve in the future years, so good luck with that. You will win more Slams, no doubt.

“He has definitely the most authentic personality out there. Never change please, with your celebrations, with your comments, I love it. Definitely the best.”

Djokovic, who will dethrone Alcaraz and regain the No.1 spot on Monday, joked during his press conference that he will retire from tennis in 24 years and his coach Goran Ivanisevic stated that playing in the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics is probably on the Serb’s mind.

“It's a pity for Wimbledon, you know, one, two points, up and down, he could have all four. Let's not be spoiled. He achieved something amazing. He came here and made 24 Grand Slams. Still hungry, still breaking records, still playing unbelievable tennis,” added Ivanisevic.