US Open 2015: Novak Claims his Second Title in the Big Apple

Novak Djokovic Wins his 2nd US Open Crown & 10th Major Title

Novak Djokovic capped off his second truly dominating Grand Slam season by claiming 3 of the 4 major titles of 2015.  Novak beat the defending champion Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray en route to his 5th Australian Open title earlier this year. He defeated Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray before falling to Stan Wawrinka in the Roland Garros final.  Novak defeated Roger Federer to claim his 3rd Wimbledon crown.   He then took out defending champion Marin Cilic and Roger Federer to claim the 2015 US Open title.  This was a year of big wins in majors for Nole.

Novak’s Spot in History

Novak is adding to an already historic career at a rapid pace.  He like Federer now have multiple years with 3 majors in the Open Era.  Rod Laver won the Grand Slam in 1969.  Jimmy Connors won 3 majors in 1974.  Mats Wilander did it in 1988. Rafael Nadal did it in 2010.  Novak has now won 3 majors in both 2011 and 2015.  That is pretty special.  Novak has 10 major titles, he finished 2011, 2012, 2014, and will finish 2015 ranked #1 in the world.  Novak has the second most Super 9/Masters Series/Masters 1000 titles since that category was launched in 1990.  Novak also has collected a bronze medal and Davis Cup title for Serbia.  With 2016 being an Olympic year and with the tennis event being held on hard courts, more medals for Novak seem quite possible.  I will predict with a high degree of confidence that Novak ties Bjorn Borg’s total of 11 majors.  Beyond that major counts are tricky, but 14 is the next target.

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Novak vs. New York?

Novak Djokovic faced enough competition from Roger Federer who claimed the Cincinnati title and arrived at his 7th US Open final without losing a set.  The crowd as expected was quite behind Roger.  In 2008, Novak let some remarks by Andy Roddick and the crowd get into his head a bit and lost to Federer in a US Open semifinal match after fending off Roddick in 4 sets in a quarterfinal tilt.  Novak seemed annoyed at the lack of fan support during his quarterfinal match with Feliciano Lopez during this US Open.  I am sure Novak was unhappy with fans cheering for missed first and second serves, but he dialed himself in and never outwardly let the crowd’s antics get to him.

I have always put my biases out there.  Roger Federer is my favorite tennis player to watch in the history of me watching tennis.  Still, I think tennis fans need to realize that cheering is great and too be encouraged.  However, cheering missed serves is just bad form to say the least.

Novak held back the crowd when he avoided having he serve broken at 3-4 in the 3rd set, when he broke Federer from 40-15 at 4-4 in the 3rd set, and when he served out the 3rd set.  Again, Novak held back the crowd when Roger had break points with Novak serving at 3-2 in the 4th set and when Novak saved 2 break points serving at 5-4 in the 4th set.  Novak managing to keep the crowd from becoming an even bigger factor in the match is to the credit of his mental toughness.

I suspect if Novak plays beyond his time at #1 or #2 that crowds will come to his aid. Novak has such a great return of serve that when he is a grizzled veteran he will be working his way into points versus younger competition and crowds will eat that up.

Still, Novak has yet to receive the appreciation he deserves.  The reasons for this are varied.  One is that Roger’s game is easily relatable to the games of players who came before him.  Federer added new wrinkles, but his game is not unrelated to Sampras, Edberg, and Becker who each pointed back to the Aussies of old in one way or another.  Rafa Nadal tapped into a lot of football/soccer fans who also like tennis with his fist pumping baseline hustle.  Novak didn’t immediately tap into a large portion of the tennis fan base, and he started frustrating the already established rabid fan bases of both Nadal and Federer in big situations.  Still, the first time I watched Novak closely at Miami 2007 I loved what I saw.  I think tennis fans will be there for him, but Federer being loved while he was #1 was probably an anomaly.  Most players receive most of their fan support when they are past their primes and more vulnerable.

Post Script: Hard Court Major Counts

Hard court tennis has only been part of the Grand Slam landscape since the 1978 US Open.  In 1988, the Australian Open went with hard courts as well.  In 2008, the Aussie Open switched from Rebound Ace to Plexicushion, but in general the hard courts in Australia have played more slowly than the Decoturf II* used by the US Open.  The players who have won the most hard court majors have a decidedly contemporary feel to them due to the relatively recent arrival of the surface on the tennis scene.

Players with the Most Hard Court Majors

  1. Roger Federer – 9 (5 US, 4 Australian)
  2. Pete Sampras – 7 (5 US, 2 Australian)
  3. Novak Djokovic – 7 (2 US, 5 Australian) – Autoformating is killing me here
  4. Andre Agassi – 6 (2 US, 4 Australian)
  5. Ivan Lendl – 5 (3 US, 2 Australian)
  6. John McEnroe – 4 (4 US)
  7. Jimmy Connors – 3 (3 US)
  8. Rafael Nadal – 3 (2 US, 1 Australian) – Autoformating …
  9. Others tied with 2 – Boris Becker, Jim Courier, Patrick Rafter, Stefan Edberg, Marat Safin, and Mats Wilander.

* Is the original Deocturf like Street Fighter? It existed, but it was overshadowed by its sequel.

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