Novak Djokovic emerged from an exhilarating and exhausting U.S. Open final with a 24th Grand Slam title on Sunday night, using every ounce of his energy and some serve-and-volley guile to get past Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3 in a match that was more closely contested than the straight-set score indicated.
Djokovic, a 36-year-old from Serbia, moved one major singles title in front of Serena Williams to become the first player to win 24 in the Open era, which began in 1968. Margaret Court also collected a total of 24, but 13 of those came before professionals were admitted to the Slam events.
There were moments, particularly in the 1-hour, 44-minute second set that was as much about tenacity as talent, when Djokovic appeared to be faltering. After some of the most grueling points — and there were many — he would lean over with hands on knees or use his racket for support or pause to stretch his legs.
This triumph against Medvedev, the opponent who beat him in the 2021 final at Flushing Meadows to stop a bid for the first calendar-year Grand Slam in more than a half-century, made Djokovic the oldest male champion at the U.S. Open in the Open era.
Djokovic’s fourth championship in New York, where he was unable to compete a year ago because he isn’t vaccinated against COVID-19, goes alongside his 10 trophies from the Australian Open, seven from Wimbledon and three from the French Open, extending his lead on the men’s Slam list. Rafael Nadal, who has been sidelined since January with a hip problem that required surgery, is next with 22; Roger Federer, who announced his retirement a year ago, finished with 20.
As good as ever, Djokovic went 27-1 in the sport’s most prestigious events this season: The lone blemish was a loss to Carlos Alcaraz in the final at Wimbledon in July. Djokovic will rise to No. 1 in the rankings on Monday, overtaking Alcaraz, who was the defending champion at Flushing Meadows but was eliminated by No. 3 Medvedev.
At the start Sunday, with the Arthur Ashe Stadium retractable roof shut because of rain in the forecast, Djokovic was comfortable as can be. No sign of the occasion weighing on him, no trace of the tension he acknowledged briefly arose late in his semifinal against unseeded American Ben Shelton.