NEW YORK (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic closed out the grand slam campaign in style beating long time rival Roger Federer to claim the U.S. Open on Sunday, leaving the Serb a hair away from one of the greatest seasons of all-time.
The 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-4 victory gave Djokovic three of the year’s four grand slam titles with a loss to Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final his only blemish.
Although there was no way to tell how big his four-set loss to Wawrinka would be, it ended up denying the Serb a chance to join the men’s calendar year grand slam club that includes just two members, Rod Laver (twice) and Don Budge.
“It’s been an incredible season. Next to 2011 probably the best season of my life,” said Djokovic, who won the same three grand slam titles in 2011.
“But I’m enjoying this year more than any previous one because I’m a husband and I’m a father and that makes it even more sweeter.
“I love this sport.”
It was the 10th career major for Djokovic but only his second U.S. Open.
The 28-year-old Serb had known more frustration than success on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts having previously reached the final five times and lifting the trophy just once in 2011.
It was more grand slam misery for the 34-year-old Swiss who, for the second consecutive grand slam, reached the final only to be denied an 18th title by Djokovic.
“I had a wonderful last two weeks,” Federer, who has been stuck on 17 grand slam title since 2012, said after competing in his first U.S. Open final in six years. “I’m very pleased where my game’s at.
“Being back in the finals is where you want to be. Playing against a great champion like Novak is a massive challenge and I enjoyed it. I thought it was a great match.”
Meeting for the 42nd time the rivalry between the elegant Swiss and the dominating Djokovic has developed into one of the sporting world’s best and the latest installment, perhaps fittingly, deadlocked the head-to-head series at 21-21.
While the women’s draw produced an improbable all-Italian final between two players virtually unknown outside of tennis circles the men’s showcase featured the sport’s two biggest names and dynamic figures.
The buzz lacking in Saturday’s women’s final gave way to an electric atmosphere inside Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday with David Beckham, Sean Connery and Robert Redford among the many celebrities taking in what turned into a night match after the start was delayed three hours by rain.
When Federer and Djokovic finally took to the court they were slow to find their rhythm and footing, particularly the top-seeded Serb, who crashed to the surface in the opening set and badly scraped his arm and leg.
But no damage was done, as the unflappable Djokovic quickly regained his composure and balance.
Federer, broken just twice the entire tournament, was living dangerously from the start by facing three break points in the opening game but managing to save all three.
The Swiss, however, could not fight off another three break chances on his next service game as Djokovic made the breakthrough to go up 2-1.
Federer broke back immediately but the Serb would quickly regain the advantage with yet another break to move ahead 4-3 then held serve to take the opening set from a shaky Federer.
The second set was a test of wills as Federer, with the crowd squarely in his corner, went toe-to-toe with a defiant Djokovic, the tug-of-war highlighted by a tense 15-minute 10th game, which Djokovic held to level at 5-5.
But it was Federer ending the set with a big fist pump after breaking Djokovic with a stinging crosscourt winner that brought the capacity crowd to its feet.
The effort, however, appeared to take something out of Federer as Djokovic, sensing his chance, claimed the crucial break at 5-4 in the next set to take control.
Djokovic kept up the pressure with a break to open the fourth and then again to go up 5-2 to put the U.S. Open within his grasp.
But Federer would not go down without a fight and digging into his reserves, the Swiss would break and hold serve to cut the deficit to 5-4 and put the crowd in full roar.
With Djokovic again serving for the match, Federer would get three more break chances but this time the Serb would not falter and clinched the title when Federer’s return sailed long.
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly