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Novak Djokovic used an all-court game to defeat Juan Martin del Potro in the US Open final.

Brain Game: Daring Djokovic Attacks Delpo’s Fearsome Forehand

Serbian uses Swiss Army knife of strategies in the US Open final

Be bold enough to walk into the lion’s den.

Novak Djokovic defeated Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-3 in the final of the US Open Sunday by attacking - not avoiding - the Argentine’s fearsome forehand.

Djokovic won 111 points for the match, with almost half of them (53) coming from a Del Potro forehand error. Del Potro did hit 16 forehand winners, but the net result of -37 was what the Serbian was constantly mining.

This kind of tactic is actually predicated on Del Potro hitting just enough forehand winners that he keeps swinging for his trademark knock-out blows. But Djokovic was playing a numbers game, constantly moving Del Potro side to side to the edges of the court to apply enough pressure with time and court position to extract a steady stream of forehand errors.

Absorb the punches. Trust the percentages.

Del Potro ran 3525 metres for the match (Djokovic 3679m), for an average on 21.1 metres per point. A lot of that was being initially moved to the Ad court to spar backhand to backhand, and then be pulled wide in the Deuce court to hit a tricky forehand on the run.

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Djokovic did hit 13 forehand winners of his own, while yielding only 21 forehand errors in the process. The average rally length per point for the match was a bruising 6.2 shots, with Djokovic winning 49.6 per cent (66/133) of his baseline points, and Del Potro winning 41.8 per cent (64/153).

Djokovic’s game is evolving once again, with the typical label of “aggressive baseliner” no longer doing justice to his superb “all-court” game. Djokovic came to the net a substantial 37 times (Del Potro 17) in the final, winning 28 (75.6%) of those points. The Serbian was constantly looking to use depth as his primary weapon to elicit a short ball, and then use direction, spin and power to the Del Potro’s backhand to force a difficult passing shot.

Djokovic came at Del Potro so many different ways. Djokovic hit 13 forehand winners, three backhand winners, seven volley winners, seven overhead winners, two approach winners and two drop shot winners.

It was the Swiss Army knife of strategies.

Djokovic’s game is stunningly complete in every which way you can imagine. He even served and volleyed twice in the final to provide a different look, winning one of those points.

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Another layer of confusion of what was coming next centred on Djokovic’s first serve location. In the Deuce court he served 20 times out wide and 19 down the T. In the Ad court, he served wide 13 times, 12 at the body, and seven down the T.

There was simply no chance Del Potro was going to win the guessing game of serve location.

The Argentine really struggled to find free points, only collecting six aces, with Djokovic missing just 18 of 88 returns for the match. The Serbian was especially rock solid returning in the Ad court, making 13 of 14 forehand returns and 19 of 21 backhand returns.

If there was a winning percentage to be mined anywhere on the court, that’s exactly where you would find the Super Serbian.

In many ways, this match was not about Djokovic at all. It was more far more important for him to hit the ball where Del Potro didn’t want it rather than trying to win with his own favourite patterns.

Craig O'Shannessy is on the coaching team of Novak Djokovic.

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