How The US Open Final Was Won: Djokovic Downs Federer
Djokovic captured his second US Open trophy, having previously upended Rafael Nadal in 2011. The World No. 1 Serb's 10 major titles make him the eighth player to win double digit crowns. Federer was bidding for his sixth US Open title and first since he defeated Andy Murray in 2008.
The FedEx ATP Head2Head is now as close as it gets, split 21-21. Djokovic owns a 10-6 edge in final encounters.
FIRST SET - Djokovic 6-4
The lights were shining bright on Flushing Meadows as Djokovic and Federer took to Arthur Ashe Stadium on a rainy early Sunday evening. The match was delayed three hours due to persistent showers as a day final turned into a blockbuster night match.
The Serb was seeking revenge after Federer denied him the Career Golden Masters in Cincinnati three weeks prior, and he was in control in the early stages.
Federer entered the match in a service groove, serving at 65 per cent for the tournament, while winning 82 per cent of first serve points. But the Swiss' serve would come under siege as proceedings got underway on Ashe. Djokovic would have break chances in four of his five service games in the opener.
Federer survived a seven-minute first game, saving three break chances, but was unable to escape the top seed's returning stranglehold two games later. Djokovic earned a 0/40 lead before eventually breaking for 2-1 after his opponent sent a backhand long. The five-time champion Swiss would grab the momentum back with an immediate break in the next game, as Djokovic was rattled after hitting the deck on a Federer drop shot struck behind him. The World No. 1 slipped as the Basel native wrong-footed him in the middle of the court and he would receive a visit from the trainer during the next changeover.
Bloodied, but not beaten, Djokovic overcame the sudden shift in fortunes. Federer won eight of nine points to consolidate for 3-2, but two mis-timed approaches would yield another break to Djokovic two games later. The Swiss would squander a break chance to pull level once again and would see his sets won streak end at 28, as the Serb proved to be too consistent with great depth and precision.
SECOND SET - Federer 7-5
Fast conditions in a wind-less Ashe Stadium would suggest Federer had the upper hand in rallies - keeping points short - but Djokovic's defences would prove to be impervious as the second set got underway. The Serb saved five break points while serving down 1-0, bringing his total to seven of eight turned aside for the match. Claiming 10 of 12 points of nine shots or more through the second game of the set, he continued to apply pressure from the baseline. Federer's increasingly aggressive approach was on display, but two straight lob winners from Djokovic on Swiss sneak attack returns at 2-1 would dispel any thoughts of a break.
Both players settled into a service rhythm following Federer's five missed opportunities. He would capture three straight holds to love and Djokovic would drop just one point on serve in three consecutive games as the set neared its conclusion at 4-4.
The set was on the line with Djokovic serving down 5-4 and Federer would apply significant pressure. A 13-minute game saw the Swiss miss a golden opportunity in hitting an approach shot directly at Djokovic, despite having a wide open deuce court at his disposal. The Serb would save a set point later in the game with a service winner and another as Federer sent a forehand long, eventually securing a critical hold and bringing his total of break points saved to an impressive nine of 10.
Federer's unforced error count was nearly double that of Djokovic (30-16), but it was the Serb whose shotmaking would suddenly endure its share of hiccups in the 12th game of the set. Federer took advantage of a Djokovic short ball at 6-5, 30/40, rifling a backhand cross court to capture the second and draw level at 1-1.
THIRD SET - Djokovic 6-4
With Eva Asderaki-Moore in the chair - the first female to umpire a US Open men's final - double faults would dictate momentum in the third set. Federer led 1-1, 40/15 and a double fault changed the complexion of the game with Djokovic reeled off four straight points to break. But as quickly as the Serb captured the lead, the Swiss grabbed it right back. Djokovic double faulted up 40/30 in the next game as Federer claimed nine points in a row to break and consolidate with a hold to love.
While a sneak attack return (SABR) induced yet another double fault by Djokovic in the following game, Federer was too passive in the critical moments. Preferring to grind from the baseline and avoid attacking the net, the Swiss was unable to capitalise on break points and would drop to 3 of 17 converted through the first three sets. The set unraveled for Federer serving at 4-4 40/30 when he hit a mid-rally ball that appeared to be going out. He was broken four points later and eventually conceded the set 6-4.
FOURTH SET - Djokovic 6-4
Djokovic entered the match with a 13-1 record against Federer when winning the first set, while Federer was 0-3 against top-ranked players in major finals. In the end, neither trend would change. The Serb secured an immediate break in the first game of the fourth set and appeared to have the match in hand after snatching a second break for 5-2. But like he has done his entire career, Federer would not go down without a fight.
The second seed got one of the breaks back with an aggressive return game, capped by slick drop shot approach after pushing Djokovic well behind the baseline with deep forehands. Federer would consolidate for 5-4 and had a sniff at completing the stunning comeback with two break points at 15/40 to draw level. Djokovic was too clutch when it mattered most, surviving three break chances in the final game to emerge victorious and hoist his second US Open trophy and 10th at the Grand Slam stage.