Novak Djokovic of Serbia is congratulated on his win by Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina after their Men's Singles final match on Day Fourteen of the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 9, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.
That pressure told in game eight, leaving Djokovic needing just a regulation hold to claim a superbly crafted third US Open title.
An eight-time finalist in NY who had only previously lifted the trophy in 2011 and 2015, the Serbian was made to work hard on Sunday as Del Potro came from a break down in the second and third sets.
The tension lifted in a marathon eighth game that took 20 minutes to decide, Djokovic finally holding to keep the set on serve at 4-4.
Djokovic, playing in his eighth final in NY and already the champion in 2011 and 2015, is now just three Slams behind Rafael Nadal and six back from the all-time record 20 held by Roger Federer. Roger Federer leads with 20 Grand Slam titles, and Rafael Nadal shows off 17 in the museum at his academy in Manacor, Spain. There has been a first-time victor in four of the past six Grand Slam tournaments, and 20-year-old Naomi Osaka added to the eclectic mix by becoming the first Japanese to win a Major.
The Serbian has won three U.S. Open titles, and the latest follows up his Wimbledon victory in July.
"He knows that he's one of my friends on tour and he knows he's one player I want to watch win on tour".
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Djokovic added: "I would like to congratulate Juan Martin for what he's done in the last four, five years".
"I love Serena, first of all", Djokovic said. "I'm very sad for being a loser today".
Djokovic was better than del Potro on their many lengthy exchanges, using his trademark body-twisting, limb-splaying court coverage to get to almost every ball, sneakers squeaking around the blue court in Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the roof was closed because of rain. He was earmarked as the next big force, the man alongside Djokovic to rattle the two great champions he had just felled to break through.
But seemingly temporarily distracted by del Potro's supporters getting louder, not to mention the world No. 3's better play, he was broken back for 3-3. He eventually succumbed to the mounting pressure in the third game as Djokovic looked to take over proceedings.
Statistically, the men's final was relatively even.
But against one of the best returners in the business, Del Potro needed to be far more assertive. Angelique Kerber went from No. 4 to No. 3. Ahead 40-0 he wasn't able to capitalize on any of the three game points, then went onto make two forehand errors to surrender his serve.
The tiebreaker was resolved thanks to more del Potro miscues on his forehand side, as he looked more and more tired.
He cried for a long time after the match and admitted it will be hard to get over.