Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

EARLIER THIS WEEK, Novak Djokovic remarked that he wouldn’t consider retiring from tennis until he begins to get his “ass kicked by young guys”. That day looks to be some way off after the 36-year-old defeated Russian, Daniil Medvedev, to win a record-extending 24th Grand Slam title and fourth US Open.

Djokovic, who won in straight sets, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3, is the oldest US Open champion in the Open era. He is also the first man to have won three Grand Slam titles in a season on four separate occasions, only missing out on achieving the mythical calendar-year Grand Slam due to his epic five-set defeat by Spanish wunderkind, Carlos Alcaraz, at Wimbledon.

Since that loss Djokovic has won 12 straight matches, highlighting his tendency to respond to defeat with extreme prejudice. Thanks to his first-round victory at this tournament, Djokovic ensured that he will regain his place as world No. 1 and extend his all-time record to 390 weeks at the top of the ATP rankings, 800 points ahead of Alcaraz.

While a rematch with the Spaniard in the final seemed inevitable for most of the last two weeks, for Djokovic this victory allowed him to avenge his straight sets defeat at the hands of Medvedev back in 2021. You can bet the Serb had that defeat on his mind today and was motivated to make this an eye-for-eye straight-sets hiding.

Not that Medvedev didn’t make Djokovic work. The Russian started colder than a Siberian winter with a series of unforced errors that enabled the Djoker to get an early break, which he managed to keep to take out the first set. But Medvedev increasingly forced the Serb into long, protracted rallies. You shudder to think what Djokovic’s step count was at the end of this match.

Medvedev had his chances on the Serb’s serve in the second set but couldn’t convert, leading to a tiebreaker. There, Medvedev went up 5-4 after finishing an insane 23-stroke rally with a brilliant drop shot. That was as close as the Russian would get as Djokovic kept his serve and Medvedev netted a backhand on set point. After a 104-minute odyssey of a second set, Djokovic had a two set lead, a margin he very rarely surrenders in Grand Slams.  

Sure enough, he was all over the Russian in the third, taking it out 6-3. As Djokovic celebrated his victory, he paid tribute to Kobe Bryant by wearing a “Mamba Forever” shirt bearing the NBA legend’s famous No. 24. You’d have to say, no one in tennis embodies Bryant’s famed ‘Mamba mentality’ quite like the Serb.

At this point, the inevitable GOAT discussions that will erupt online appear rather tired. For all but diehard fans of Nadal and Federer, Djokovic’s sensational year has essentially ended serious argument. First, he won the Australian Open to draw level with Nadal on 22 Grand Slams. He then won the French Open to claim the Grand Slam record. His epic battle with Alcaraz at Wimbledon showed he now has a legitimate new rival, something that will most likely spur him to greater heights and only enhance his legacy. His epic duel with the Spaniard at the Cincinnati Open, one of the matches of the year, ended in the Serb’s favour. Now, he’s won here at Flushing Meadow.

For so long the GOAT conversation in men’s tennis was a legitimate three-way argument. Now, after Djokovic’s sensational year and astonishing ability to dominate across eras, the Serb has distanced himself from his long-time rivals. In terms of stats, narrative, and increasingly legacy, there’s no longer much to argue about.

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images


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