The 2015 US Open has concluded with Novak Djokovic, the tournament favorite since betting odds were originally released a year ago, claiming his second title from Flushing Meadows. Djokovic defeated Roger Federer in Sunday’s rain-delayed final to capture what is his 10th overall Grand Slam title. The line score in the match ended at 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
Djokovic, despite claiming the championship, did not have a dominating service performance in the final. The reigning World No. 1 had more double faults than aces (5:3) and, accordingly, Federer got into Djokovic’s service games on numerous occasions.
However the story of the final, and how Djokovic won it, is largely how he played when Federer held break points. Twenty-three times the Serb had his back against the wall yet Federer was only able to claim four break points, including one to end the second set ahead of a tie breaker. Perhaps had the Swiss Maestro won a standard 30% of those opportunities presented then the match may have been very different.
Conversely Djokovic broke Federer six times in thirteen chances, breaks that helped the Serb avoid tiebreakers in the sets he won. After the match Djokovic had a lot to say his fans:
“I’m enjoying this year more than previous years because I’m a husband & father,” he claimed. “Makes it even sweeter.”
Djokovic also stated: “I have to share my admiration for Roger, everything he’s still doing for tennis. It was a tough one tonight. I have a tremendous respect for Roger…Coming on court knowing you are playing against probably the best player in the game adds a little bit more pressure. I knew he was going to be very aggressive. It was a quite incredible evening for me.”
Note the use of the word “probably.”
With the 10th Grand Slam title it’s time to reflect on where the current World No. 1 now ranks among the all-time greats – a department that his complexion is ever improving in.
Djokovic’s Grand Slam titles:
Australian Open: 5
French Open: 0
US Open: 2
While the goose egg at Roland Garros remains a glaring mark against the current World No. 1, his outright total in all majors is creeping up on the very best players. At present, among retired players, only Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, and Pete Sampras have more Grand Slam singles titles than Djokovic. Among active players, both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer still have Djokovic trumped.
However if Djokovic has as strong of a Grand Slam season in 2016 as he had in 2015 then he will be within immediate striking distance of both Nadal’s and Sampras’ total, two players that each have 14. Insightfully, Djokovic is the current favorite to win each major next year and, assuming that he wins three, he would then have 13 majors in 52 week’s time.
Aged 28 years old at the moment and with tennis players seemingly lasting longer than they used to, Djokovic promises to be among the favorites for all Grand Slams he enters maybe even for a handful of years still. In my opinion, it is not too early to start talking about the current World No. 1 as a credible threat to Federer’s record of 17 singles titles.
For Federer, the 2015 US Open championship-match loss has to be incredibly disappointing. He seemed to be the best player in the tournament through the first six rounds, often dispatching even strong players with what appeared to be ease. Furthermore it did not seem as though Djokovic was far and away better than Federer in the final – the latter had his opportunities.
But having missed one and now at the age of 34, it is very difficult to know what to expect from Federer in the future. Certainly his staying power is incredible and he has already silenced critics with regard to how aging has not slowed him down much.
Furthermore his drive to succeed is unquestionable. The fact that he developed a new strategy, SABR, shows that he desires success still. Some have called the ‘sneak attack’ cheap but I think it’s merely Federer or Stefan Edberg brainstorming: at 34 years old Fed can’t run around forever anymore and rushing the net when receiving on second serves shortens those points, for better or worse (usually better).
But, despite the loss, Federer ended his campaign with the almost non-stop optimism that has characterized about 99.9% of his career:
“I love the sport,” he said, “I have a lot of passion.” Then he concluded: “Last thing, I’ll see you guys next year.”
With that kind of half-full attitude, surely there’s at least one more Grand Slam final in Federer’s future.