Federer knows how to win these things, while Djokovic is still
learning, and that made the difference Sunday. Hardly at the top of
his game, Federer came through, beating Djokovic 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2),
6-4 for his fourth consecutive U.S. Open championship and 12th
Grand Slam title overall.
Federer is the first man since Bill Tilden in the 1920s to win
the American Grand Slam four years running, and, still only 26
years old, he moved within two of Pete Sampras' career record of 14
"I think about it a lot now," Federer said of Sampras' mark.
"To come so close at my age is fantastic, and I hope to break
How many Slams can he win?
"I don't know," Federer said. "I hope more than Pete."
This one was a close call. The 20-year-old Djokovic was in his
first Slam final, yet he led 6-5 in each of the opening two sets.
In the first, he held five set points. In the second, he held
Federer erased all of those, showing the craft and cool that
have allowed him to hold the No. 1 ranking for the past 188 weeks,
the longest run ever.
"My next book is going to be called, 'Seven Set Points,'"
Djokovic said, flashing the same sort of humor he displayed when he
did on-court impersonations of other players after his quarterfinal
On a more serious note, the No. 3-seeded Djokovic said of
Federer: "Once again, he showed he's the best."
In Djokovic, Federer was facing the only man to beat him over
the past three months, but that was in early August at Montreal,
not early September at New York, and in a Grand Slam tuneup, not
the real deal.
So, not just talented with a racket but prescient, too, Federer
pretty much predicted what would transpire. Shortly before walking
out for Sunday's match, he said knowingly, "It'll be interesting
to see how he handles the final."
Afterward, Federer spoke about having enjoyed getting another
shot at Djokovic.
"New guys challenging me -- this is my biggest motivation out
there," Federer said. "Seeing them challenging me, and then
beating them in the finals."
In the end, about the only category Djokovic won on this day was
"Most Intriguing Guests," with 2006 Open champion Maria Sharapova -- "just a friendship," he said -- and actor Robert De Niro sharing
a box with his parents in the stands.
Federer was dressed for an evening on the town -- all in black,
from headwrap and wristband to socks and shoes, from shirt to
shorts with tuxedo-like satin stripes down the sides -- and he
finished things under the lights by breaking Djokovic in the last
game with the help of a no-look, over-the-shoulder volley winner.
It's the type of shot that has prompted plenty of people to call
Federer the greatest to ever swing a racket.
Which is why, at the start, it was surprising that Federer was
not the Federer everyone has to come to expect. When Federer
double-faulted, then sprayed two forehands long, Djokovic broke to
go up 6-5. Perhaps thinking they'd witness an upset, many in the
over-capacity crowd of 25,230 got on their feet, clapping and
So, serving for the first set, Djokovic raced to a 40-love edge.
Three set points.
Three chances to take a one-set lead against Federer in the U.S.
And just like that, they vanished: Federer hit a cross-court
forehand winner that caught a line, and Djokovic missed two
Then came two more set points that Federer erased. Then, in the
tiebreaker, Djokovic made three backhand errors and two
double-faults, including on the last point.
"He knows what it feels like to be in that kind of situation.
He knows how to cope with the pressure," Djokovic said. "For me,
this is something new."
It showed again later.
When Federer served while trailing 6-5 in the second set,
Djokovic let two more set points go by the wayside. Again they went
to a tiebreaker, and again Federer was better. When he ended it
with a backhand passing winner down the line -- placing the ball
through the one, tiny opening there was -- Federer skipped toward
the sideline, screamed and punched the air.
That made the Swiss star 13-2 in major final tiebreakers, nearly
identical to his record in major finals: He's 12-2, an .857 winning
percentage that's better than Sampras' .778.
Djokovic had one last opportunity to climb back into the match,
getting to love-40 when Federer served at 2-2 in the third set. But
Federer took five points in a row, making Djokovic 2-for-9 on break
Federer takes home a Grand Slam-record $2.4 million in prize
money: $1.4 million for winning the tournament, plus a $1 million
bonus because he finished atop the U.S. Open Series standings based
on performances at hard-court tuneup events.
From 1970 to 2005, no man -- not a single one! -- reached all four
Grand Slam finals in a calendar year. Now Federer has turned that
trick two years in a row. Actually, his streak stretches back to 10
consecutive Grand Slam finals, and he's won eight. And if it
weren't for a certain indefatigable Mallorcan who goes by the name
Rafael Nadal -- who beat him in the last two French Open finals.
Federer might have won all 10.
About an hour after Sunday's match, Djokovic walked outside the
stadium to a players' area, where a dozen friends and relatives
awaited. Djokovic posed for photos, then Dad helped him pop a
bottle of champagne. Clearly, Djokovic was happy to be here.
Federer cared only about getting the victory.
He was asked whether Djokovic is ready to overtake the
"No. 2, No. 3 -- it doesn't matter much," Federer said. "It's
No. 1 that matters."