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Novak marches on, Coco comes through, Kobe shows up, and the youngsters are about to crash the party.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

For all the noise the young guns made at this year’s US Open, the final headlines still belonged to the old guard.

Novak Djokovic did it again. He won another major. He broke another record (he’s running out of them to break). He ascended back to world No. 1.

This was his tournament. He just let a few other folks share it with him.

Novak Djokovic wins his Fourth US Open Title

Djokovic captured his record-tying 24th Grand Slam title by defeating Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3 in a rematch of their 2021 final. Medvedev famously defeated Djokovic last time, halting his run to the Calendar Slam, but Djokovic was too tough this time around.

Medvedev had his chances to turn the tide in the second set, which he largely controlled.

Novak was winded throughout the 104-minute set (that’s nearly two hours for one set of tennis, folks), collapsing to the ground to catch his breath after more than one long, grueling rally.

Medvedev’s opening came at 5-6, ad-out…a set point on Novak’s serve. Novak served and volleyed, left Medvedev with a wide open backhand passing shot down the line, but Medvedev went cross court, right back to Novak, who put away the volley to save set point.

Novak laughed a sheepish grin. He knew he got lucky.

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That was it. That was the missed opportunity. The rest of the match played out the way Novak’s matches usually do. Win a gritty tiebreaker, drain the opponent’s willpower and clinically close out the match.

Now Novak sits at 24 Grand Slam titles. 25 and solo possession of the all-time record is almost a given.

Then it becomes a question of remaining motivation and health, and how inspired he is to go for 30, which is very much within reach.

Novak’s Numbers

1New world ranking, reclaimed after loaning it to Carlos Alcaraz for the last year
3Career Slams (most all-time)
3Losses in his last 68 Grand Slam matches
4US Open titles, one behind Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, and Jimmy Connors in the Open Era
7Titles in his last 10 Grand Slams
24Grand Slam titles, tying him with Aussie legend Margaret Court for most all-time
33Winning percentage in Grand Slams (24/72)
36Grand Slam finals appearances (most all-time)
47Grand Slam semifinal appearances (most all-time)
50Grand Slam finals appearance percentage (36/72)
67Winning percentage in Grand Slam finals (24/36)
96ATP Tour titles
390Weeks at No. 1
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Coco Comes Through

Hype trains don’t always make it to the station.

Carlos Alcaraz arrived ahead of schedule.

Countless players stall out and never arrive.

Coco Gauff pulled in right on time.

Yes, at 19-years-old, her scheduled arrival time was now. The women’s game was ready for her to be a Slam winner, and so was she. She has been a name-brand player for the last four years and this was her second Slam final.

It is well within expectations that you start winning Slams once you’ve reached more than one final. Appearances trump age. Multiple appearances mean you’ve got the goods. If you’re ready, you’re ready.

Coco was ready.

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Aryna Sabalenka overpowered her in the first set of the championship match before Gauff settled in and remembered the game plan: keep the ball in play and wait for Sabalenka to grow impatient and overhit.

Once she made that adjustment, Sabalenka was the one who couldn’t / wouldn’t / didn’t adapt. She kept firing away full throttle, but her shots weren’t landing.

That strategy is fine when you’re making your shots. It’s why Sabalenka is the new world No. 1, deservedly so…she’s on her game more often than not.

But in the final two sets against Gauff, her shots weren’t there. And instead of pulling back and working some rallies, she stuck with Plan A and kept blasting away.

The errors piled up, and Gauff never had to adjust again.

That was it. Game, set, match. 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.

That is how you win. You don’t always have to outplay your opponent. All you have to do is figure out the winning strategy in the current matchup, then ride that out until it becomes ineffective. If it remains effective, don’t change.

Gauff figured that out—almost certainly part of the Brad Gilbert effect—and now she’s a Grand Slam winner.

Kudos Coco.

Black Mamba Butterfly

A mysterious presence in the US Open Men’s Championship match was a black and yellow butterfly.

It spent about twenty minutes on a spectator’s hat in the first set, then moved down to the back wall of the court, and was later seen fluttering across the court and behind Djokovic as he sat in his chair, wrapped in a towel during a changeover.

After Djokovic won the match, he changed into a custom t-shirt screen-printed with the word “Mamba” and a photograph of he and Kobe Bryant on the front, followed by Kobe’s number 24 on the back.

Novak has spoken often about his friendship with Kobe—nicknamed “Black Mamba” for his fierce competitive mentality—and his devastating recent passing. He saw an opportunity to pay tribute to his late friend via the synchronicity of the moment: winning his 24th major title and Kobe’s #24 jersey.

Asked about it during the post-match interview, he described how Kobe helped counsel him during tough times, taught him about the Mamba mindset, and how he came up with his secret t-shirt plan to acknowledge him here, given the chance.

And then perhaps, we think again of that butterfly. That black and yellow butterfly. And we wonder.

Kobe? Is that you?

Youth Brigade

This tournament was a bright light welcome party for the new generation.

Obvious standouts are 19-year-old champion Coco Gauff and 20-year-old Ben Shelton.

The women’s side had a more balanced age distribution, but Coco’s title certainly weights the WTA tour even more toward youth.

Recall that Iga Swiatek is still only 22-years-old, and fellow major winners Elena Rybakina (24), Marketa Vondrousova (24), and Sabalenka (25) are all still early in their careers, too.

Apart from early disappointments for No. 4 Holger Rune, No. 14 Felix Auger-Aliassime and others, youth was served in a big way in the men’s draw.

The under-25 set saw deep runs by Carlos Alcaraz (20), Ben Shelton (20), Jannik Sinner (22), Alex de Minaur (24), Andrey Rublev (25), Taylor Fritz (25), and Frances Tiafoe (25), who have all been known commodities for a few years.

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But we also saw some promising moves by unknowns Jack Draper (21, Great Britain), Dominic Stricker (21, Switzerland), Matteo Arnaldi (22, Italy), Rinky Hijikata (22, Australia), and Borna Gojo (25, Croatia) each of whom made it to the fourth round.

Only one man above the age of 27 made it to the Round of 16: Novak Djokovic (36).

The 27-year-old? Daniil Medvedev.

Collegiate Tennis

We said goodbye to Georgia Bulldog John Isner in this tournament. He gave us one final 5-set thriller, and of course a few more tiebreaks, as he waved goodbye clutching his children. Thanks John, you were a special guy to have around and you honored the sport well.

Isner carried the flag for collegiate success stories for a long time. It’s only fitting that as he retires, two others NCAA Champions arrive to pick it up.

Florida Gator Ben Shelton chomped into the semis, the Top 20, and the Laver Cup.

And Texas Longhorn Peyton Stearns hooked her way into the Top 50 and the has the WTA Tour’s full attention. Probably a few sponsors, too.

Collegiate tennis is officially a legitimate route into the pro circuit. Both Shelton and Stearns attest to how battle tested they feel by competing in high pressure situations before going pro.

Expect to see more school colors in the stands in the coming years.

Hanging Up

Sometimes you hang up on someone.

Sometimes you get hung up on.

Let’s not get too hung up about it.

Talk soon.