Novak Djokovic inspired by opposition fan chants on way to US Open victory
An elbow injury. A subsequent crisis of confidence. No Grand Slam semi-finals for a year and a half.
Now Novak Djokovic has won two majors in a row, and could end the season as world number one.
Quite a turnaround.
The Serb struggled in the New York heat early during the US Open, but found his best form as the tournament went on.
It culminated in a straight sets 6–3, 7–6 (7–4), 6–3 final victory over Juan Martín del Potro, his 14th career major title.
That drew him level for third on the all-time list with his boyhood idol Pete Sampras.
And Djokovic even used the chants of opposition fans to help motivate him against the Argentine.
"This might sound funny, but my nickname is Nole, when they shout ‘Ole, ole, ole, ole,’ that's what I hear."
Tale of two comebacks
Before this season, Djokovic hadn't won a Grand Slam since the 2016 French Open, and hadn't reached a major final since the US Open that same year.
The 31-year-old suffered an injury-affected end to 2017 and start of 2018, undergoing surgery after the Australian Open.
He seemed to have regained top form before he suffered a shock defeat at the French Open.
That left him questioning his future in tennis, as he took time out of the sport to regroup.
Del Potro has had an even longer injury nightmare, suffering repeated wrist injuries that nearly caused him to retire in 2015.
The Argentine's last Grand Slam final was when he won in New York in 2009 against Roger Federer, although he did reach the Rio 2016 final against Andy Murray.
If he had won, it would've set a new record for the most Grand Slams played (22) between first and second titles. But it wasn't to be.
The road back
Djokovic laid down a marker at Wimbledon, winning his first Slam in over two years to remind his rivals of his prowess.
But he's since backed that up by completing a career Golden Masters in Cincinnati, and now this triumph at Flushing Meadows. In that span, he's lost just one of his 23 matches.
In his run to his third US Open title, Djokovic dropped only two sets — one in each of his two opening matches — and won his last 16 sets in a row.
The former world number one hasn't been top of the rankings since November 2016.
But he will move into the top four with this win, and can regain that top spot by the end of the year.
Chasing Federer and Nadal
Djokovic now trails only two men in the all-time list of Grand Slam wins.
Perhaps unfortunately for him, they are both still active: Roger Federer (20) and Rafael Nadal (17).
But, where the Serb once considered himself unlucky to be playing at the same time as his Swiss and Spanish rivals, he no longer does.
"Maybe ten years ago I would say I'm not so happy to be part of this era with Nadal and Federer. Actually today I am. Rivalries with these guys, matches with Federer and Nadal, have made me the player I am, have shaped me into the player I am today."
Now Nadal also stands in his way as he tries to become world number one once more.