Novak Djokovic has drawn level with American great Pete Sampras with the third-most men's grand slam singles titles following a straight-sets victory over Juan Martin del Potro in the US Open final at Flushing Meadows.
Djokovic's 14th major title, which follows his victory at Wimbledon earlier this year, leaves him trailing only contemporaries Roger Federer (20 titles) and Rafael Nadal (17) on the all-time list.
"I was hoping (Sampras) would be here tonight, but he's not so I wanted to say Pete, you're my idol, I'll see you soon," Djokovic said during the trophy presentation.
Djokovic, whose progress among the pantheon of tennis' best ever players stalled suddenly following his 12th major title at the 2016 French Open, is now back at the very top of his game courtesy of his impressive 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 win over the third-seeded Argentine.
Supreme: Novak Djokovic has moved into a tie for third on the list of men’s grand slam winners.
And, at the age of 31, Djokovic appears to have the time – and crucially, the fitness levels – to push much higher up the list before his career concludes.
Del Potro, whose own career has been punctuated by a series of injury setbacks, had looked the more comfortable of the two players on serve in the early stages until the eighth game of the opening set.
Starting to force some errors from the Argentine, Djokovic capitalised on the first break point of the match to take a 5-3 lead, serving it out to take the set 6-3 and establish the early running in the battle for the year's final major trophy.
Displaying the suffocating brand of tennis he has rediscovered in 2018, Djokovic earned another break early in the second set and alarm bells were ringing loud and clear in the del Potro camp.
Yet just as the Serbian appeared to be in cruise control, del Potro lifted his intensity and earned himself two break-back opportunities – his first of the match – with some blistering forehands at 2-3.
A loose forehand from Djokovic gave del Potro the break back and the Argentine threw some wild fist pumps in the direction of the crowd as hopes of a classic decider increased.
A rattled Djokovic starting spouting a diatribe of words in the direction of his support crew as the match took on an entirely different complexion.
He managed to hold serve after a 20-minute game for 4-4 in the second set as the match moved towards a pivotal juncture. The intense battle continued all the way to a tiebreaker, which Djokovic claimed 7-4 for a commanding two-set lead.
Vanquished: He fought hard, but Del Potro was no match for Djokovic.
Del Potro never stopped fighting and managed to stay on serve until late in the third set, but Djokovic proved too good in the big moments as he added a third US Open title to those he won in 2011 and 2015.
For del Potro, who won his first and so far only grand slam at Flushing Meadows in 2009, his long search for a second major title continues.
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