Novak Djokovic, with eight major titles already in his collection, became the first man to win the title at five US Opens on Saturday in an enthralling clash with defending champion Stan Wawrinka, setting up a repeat of the 2015 final.
The winner came from the brink of defeat three times before running out a 6-3 2-6 6-4 6-7(3) 6-2 winner in a bruising five-hour epic which featured a record break at 4-4 in the fifth set tiebreak.
So with the clock ticking down, after 2 hours and 43 minutes on the night and the 30-year-old veteran Wawrinka playing a wonderfully aggressive game from the baseline, it seemed in the balance once again.
The first two sets had lasted exactly 51 minutes, still remarkable considering the length of the contest.
But the future champion had too much strength and mettle and with the Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych about to serve to stay in the match in the fifth set, Djokovic looked to be on his way out.
His opponent now match point down, Wawrinka was still in control.
Novak Djokovic begins to cry as the final set drew to a close. Photograph: Steven Ryan/AFP/Getty Images
But Djokovic recovered his composure to drag himself back into the contest and, with Berdych seemingly unmoved in breaking back to 3-3 in the tiebreak, the match entered another dramatic tiebreak and Wawrinka’s confidence shattered.
With Djokovic serving, the 2013 champion found himself one point away from defeat but he pulled himself back into the match.
Again Djokovic was faced with a match point down but, with Berdych showing nothing in form that suggested he could force a third set tiebreak, Djokovic somehow saved both.
The momentum in the US Open final was quickly swinging in the Serb’s favour as Berdych struggled and, in front of the largest crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium history, he was broken to love to trail two sets to one.
Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka hold hands during the US Open in 2015. Photograph: Hana Sergeyeva/AFP/Getty Images
With the fightback leading to a tiebreak, and a heroic Wawrinka seemingly doing all he could to protect a 5-3 lead, the match was threatening to slip from his grasp.
But Djokovic saved two match points before, fittingly, winning his fifth major in a dramatic decider that featured five breaks of serve, four tiebreak points and an 86-minute break between sets.
Djokovic, who had to dig deep to come back twice against Wawrinka in the previous three grand slam finals, powered past his rival to win a riveting final.
The Serbian second seed, after recording his third US Open title, will rise a massive 14 places to number two in the world rankings.