US Open 2015: Dominant Djokovic defeats Federer to claim 10th Major

Novak Djokovic beats Roger Federer in four thrilling sets to win the US Open and claim his 10th Grand Slam

The gauntlet had been firmly thrown down by the 2011 champion and world No1 Novak Djokovic with a blistering defeat of defending champion Marin Cilic as the last four standing at this year’s US Open fought their way to the final. It had taken him an hour and 25 minutes for the loss of only three games.

Just a couple of hours later, that gauntlet was just as quickly picked up by the five-time former champion and world No2 Roger Federer, who took only seven minutes longer to outplay the French Open champion and world No5, Stan Wawrinka, to reach the final without dropping a set.

It set the latest meeting in one of the most compelling, most charismatic, most played-out rivalries of the decade—indeed this their 14th Major encounter set a new record for Grand Slam meetings. Now poised at 21 wins to 20 in Federer’s favour, the two had met five times this year already, all finals, and while Djokovic had the edge 3-2, Federer had won their last, in Cincinnati.

There was certainly no doubting the form of both this season: 11 titles from 18 finals between them, 62 match-wins to Djokovic, 51 to Federer. And they always seemed to bring out the best in one other, in what has evolved into one of the most admired rivalries in tennis, pitching Federer’s all-court fluency, attack and tactical guile against the super-fit, super-flexible body and intellect of one of the greatest defenders in the game.

Little wonder that this climax of the Grand Slam year was so eagerly anticipated, promised so much, and had so much at stake.

With victory, Federer would become the first man in the Open era to win six US Open titles and the first ever to win six at two different Majors. And should he win in straight sets, he would also become the first man in the Open era to win here without the loss of a set. Perhaps most significant for him on a personal level, though, was to win his first Grand Slam since 2012.

A win for Djokovic would be his 10th Grand Slam title, and he was now playing his 16th final from his last 21 Major appearances. Should he win, he would become just the second man in the Open era—Federer being the other—to win three Majors in a year twice in his career, and he was already one of just three men—Federer and Rod Laver—to reach all four Major finals in one season.

But not for the first time on the final weekend at the US Open, the two finalists would have to wait well beyond the scheduled start—by three hours—as the rains came and lingered. A day match turned to evening, warm conditions to cool, and Federer was the slower of the two to really warm to the task, particular on his serve.

One of the key weapons in the Swiss artillery—and he had been broken by only one player in the tournament, Philipp Kohlschreiber—he struggled to hit half his first deliveries into play, and Djokovic was all over it. The opening game set the tone, a seven-minute struggle with five deuces, three break points—one courtesy of a double fault—that Federer eventually held, but Djokovic swiftly served to love and piled the pressure back on the Swiss.

Federer saved two points from 0-40 in the third game but Djokovic drilled the ball from the baseline onto the lines through a particularly testing rally to get the break. Federer had already been forced to serve 22 times and had hit the mark with only nine of his first serves.

Djokovic gave up his advantage after a heavy fall in the next game when Federer net-charged to wrong-foot the Serb, but come the seventh game, the Swiss netted a volley then a backhand, and Djokovic slotted a passing winner to break again.

Each failed to convert another break chance, leaving Djokovic to serve out the set, 6-4. Already, the Swiss had faced more break points than in any of his previous matches, and the second set would only exaggerate that failing: nine chances, just one conversion.

However, Federer’s game rose to match his opponent’s in a stand-out hour-long set. The Swiss serving level rose, he began to make inroads with his hyper aggressive net game, and offered up not one break point. However he failed to convert five break points in Djokovic’s opening service game in some thrilling exchanges, and the Serb twice blunted the infamous ‘Sabr’ attack with pin-point lobs.

The Swiss reeled off 14 straight points on serve to hold at 4-3—and by the time Federer worked break points for the set at 5-4, the partisan crowd was in overdrive, fuelled by that long delay to the start-time and by some exhilarating rallies. Time and again the two men countered each other’s best, but Djokovic survived and appealed to the crowd for a little of their support. He could not, though, contain their excitement when a Swiss backhand winner broke for the set, 7-5.

But Djokovic was ruthless in defusing both Federer and the crowd with a swift break in the third game of the third, only to swell the Swiss support by handing the advantage straight back. After 50 minutes in the balance, however, Djokovic’s piercing returns drew a couple of fatal errors for the break, while Federer failed to convert two more break-back chances: Djokovic held, 6-4.

The fourth set was a near replay of the third, as the pummelling, physical battle continued. But as before, Djokovic stole the first advantage, and this time with a double break for 5-2. Federer turned on the magic—first a smash, then a forehand and finally a drop-shot—to break, and had three more chances to break for 5-5, but even the wave of noise from the 23,000 could not deter the focused Djokovic. Having saved 19 of 23 break points through the match, he served it out, 6-4, after 3hrs 20mins of intense effort, and with just two points more than Federer, 147 to 145.

It makes 10 Majors for the impenetrable, hyper-athletic, supremely confident world No1, drawing Djokovic level with Bill Tilden at seventh on the all-time Grand Slam list. And he expressed particular pride in taking on and beating the 17-time Grand Slam champion in two straight Major finals.

“Sitting down here with this trophy and reflecting on what I have achieved, it’s quite incredible. He was going to try to disrupt my rhythm… put a lot of variety in his game: slice, chip-and-charge, come to the net, serve and volley, but I was ready for it. I was ready for the battle. We pushed each other to the limit, as we always do.”

He added of his 34-year-old opponent: “He’s still improving and keeps on going. I have tremendous respect for Roger and what his game [presents] to me and any other player.”

Federer remained upbeat about his own game, and complimentary of the champion.

“I had a wonderful two weeks, the whole American trip has been fantastic. I’m very pleased with where my game’s at, being back in the finals… Playing against a massive champion like Novak is always a challenge. It’s always tough playing against one another and I think we walk away knowing more about our game.”

He added, with a smile: “I love the sport, I’ve got a lot of passion for it and, one last thing, I’ll see you guys next year.”

Before then, both men will line up again at the World Tour Finals, and each has big points to defend as they embark on the Asian swing and then the European indoor season.

But wherever and whenever they meet again, put the date in your diary: It will be worth the wait.

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