Novak Djokovic punctuated perhaps the greatest single season in the history of tennis by smacking yet another crosscourt winner against Rafael Nadal in the final of the U.S. Open and then getting down on his knees and shouting to the crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Top-seeded Djokovic’s 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-1 victory avenged last year’s loss to No. 2 Nadal in the Open final and makes him just the sixth man in history to win at least three Grand Slam singles events in the same year.
“It really sounds unreal,” said Djokovic, who picked up a total of $2.3 million for winning the Open and finishing second in the Olympus U.S. Open series. “It’s incredible feeling. I had amazing year and it keeps going but every time I play Rafa it’s a big challenge and I want to congratulate him on a great tournament again. I wish that we have many more tough matches in upcoming years.”
Djokovic, now 64-2 in 2011, also won the Australian Open and Wimbledon. He owns four career majors and denied Nadal what would have been his 11th.
“I think [it’s] the greatest year we’ve seen in the sport of tennis, right there,” CBS commentator John McEnroe said.
Djokovic improved to a perfect 6-0 against Nadal in finals this year. Of Nadal’s 11 losses in 2011, more than half came to the Serb.
Nadal had dropped just two sets in building a 13-0 record at the Open over the past two years, but Djokovic broke his serve an amazing 11 times in the final.
Djokovic did so despite developing back trouble late in the third set that necessitated three visits from the trainer, who massaged his back and gave him pain pills.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed, no?” Nadal said of the result. “But you know what, this guy is doing unbelievable things so congratulations to Novak for everything.
“What you did this year is probably impossible to repeat, so well done.”
Djokovic advanced to the final only after fending off double-match point against Roger Federer in the semifinals Saturday, and overcoming a two-sets-to-love deficit against the five-time champion. He is the first man since American Andy Roddick in 2003 to win the Open after staving off match point.
Djokovic wore an FDNY hat during the trophy presentation and made sure to honor those lost on 9/11.
“Give my compassion to the people of 9/11,” he said. “Our hearts are with [them]. We are playing a sport. It’s great, we’re enjoying but we cannot even realize how lucky we are to be doing something we love.”
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