Wrist and reward: del Potro back amongst elite

Aside from Rafa Nadal on clay facing Novak Djokovic on a hard court is arguably the toughest challenge in tennis

GETTY IMAGES Aside from Rafa Nadal on clay facing Novak Djokovic on a hard court is arguably the toughest challenge in tennis

A year after missing the 2017 US Open because of an injured right elbow that would require surgery, Djokovic showed that he is unquestionably back at his best and back at the top of tennis.

Prior to his Wimbledon crown, Djokovic had gone two years without a grand slam title, struggling with motivation, confidence and an elbow problem that ruled him out of this tournament 12 months ago.

Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro both said they felt sorry for Serena Williams following the controversial women's singles final.

After taking just two points off Del Potro's first three service games, Djokovic, in his 23rd final at the majors, pounced to break for 5-3. He had the upper hand in the second set tie-breaker but couldn't convert, and after fighting back from a break down in the third set he served up a double fault to give Djokovic a chance for the final break of serve. "I know that he will be here again with the champions trophy".

The victory puts Djokovic three Slam wins away from Nadal's 17 and six behind Federer's record 20.

"Pete Sampras is one of the biggest legends ever to play the game", Djokovic said.

His opponent? Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 Open champ, whose own comeback story is arguably even more compelling than Djokovic's.

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Things looked ominous for Del Potro as Djokovic seized control early on, moving magnificently and constructing a number of superb points with precision striking. Not against Djokovic, who always seemed to have all the answers.

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 needed four sets to get past 41st-ranked Hungarian Marton Fucsovics in the first round and another to get past 61st-ranked American Tennys Sandgren in the second.

For World No 3 Del Potro, it was a heartbreaking experience coming in just his second Slam final, nine years after he was crowned US Open champion before a long battle with wrist injuries pushed him into depression and to the brink of retirement. They went back and forth, through eight deuces and all those break opportunities for del Potro, until he slapped one forehand into the net, and another sailed wide.

While Djokovic laid on the ground in ecstasy Sunday, del Potro sat in his chair and cried. He made one last stand by breaking and holding for 3-all.

This time Djokovic is No.3 behind Nadal and Federer, but the stunning three-year first will have tennis fans asking if it really is 2018. "They deserve to win".

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