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Novak Djokovic wins the U.S. Open at 36, the oldest man to take the top title

The Serb bolstered his claim to the most Grand Slam titles in men's tennis by taking Sunday’s match in straight sets against Daniil Medvedev, 27.
Image: 2023 US Open - Day 14
Novak Djokovic returns a shot against Daniil Medvedev during their Men's Singles Final at the U.S Open Sunday in Flushing, Queens, New York.Matthew Stockman / Getty Images

Novak Djokovic won the U.S. Open men’s final Sunday, adding breathing room to his status as holder of most men’s Grand Slam titles and cementing his place as one of the sport's greatest players.

At 36, around retirement age in the sport, Djokovic is the oldest man to win the tournament.

On Sunday afternoon, at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, he presented a master class on winning, his body never faltering, his resolve ice cold.

The numbers of the Serb's straight-sets win over 27-year-old Daniil Medvedev — 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 — may betray the nature of the final, an unwavering, point-by-point war between the best.

The younger player was far from steamrolled, but there were moments when it may have looked as if the Russian had the older body of the two, his legs cold and short a step. He called a trainer out at one point in the match.

But it was, above all, Djokovic’s calm and concentration that prevailed during key points at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The second-set tie break was a wrestling match neither would concede, with Medvedev appearing to change the momentum by winning a rally of mid-court half-volleys and drop shots to go up 5-4 in the tiebreaker.

Indeed, the Russian tried to bring the game to Djokovic, challenging him at the net, but Djokovic responded with sometimes perfect strokes, ultimately taking the tiebreaker and set, and setting himself up for the straight-sets win.

The third and final set was nearly all Djokovic highlights. Even when he lost a point, Djokovic had the crowd roaring. Up 5-2, he performed the near-splits diving for a ball unsuccessfully after moving Medvedev around the court at will with shotgun forehands.

Medvedev dumped a ball into the net to end his challenge, and Djokovic hit the ground, his head down in grace and perhaps in disbelief.

The win may have been redemption for the champion, who lost to Medvedev in the 2021 U.S. Open final.

That year, the Russian thwarted Djokovic's attempt to take all four major championships in a calendar year, a rare feat last accomplished in men's open competition by Rod Laver in 1969.

The Serb's win on Sunday earned him another year that was just short of a Grand Slam. In July, he lost an epic, five-set final to Carlos Alcaraz, 20, on Wimbledon's ryegrass.

On Friday, Djokovic dispatched American Blake Shelton in straight sets.

The last American to win a singles title at Flushing Meadows, the Queens city park that's been the home of the U.S. Tennis Association tournament since 1978, was Andy Roddick in 2003.

Following the match, the winner put on a "Mamba Forever" T-shirt that features a photo of the late NBA player Kobe Bryant and himself. His Lacoste jacket was adorned with the number 24, which was Bryant's number during his later years with the Lakers.

It also represents those big titles under Djokovic's belt. He said he came up with the idea of "24"-themed apparel days ago, during the tournament, at a point at which he thought he might win.

Djokovic said he told his operation he would wear the 24 apparel if he won — to acknowledge Bryant's friendship and counsel.

Bryant, he said, boosted his spirits and helped mount a comeback after injury years ago. Speaking to the crowd, Djokovic explained that his drive started with a childhood dream.

"I wanted to become the best player in the world," he said. "That was the only thing that I wanted."