After two weeks of compelling and history-making tennis, the 2023 U.S. Open ended this past Sunday with the men’s singles final between No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic and No. 3 seed Daniil Medvedev. Djokovic earned his 24th Grand Slam singles title with a 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 win to tie Margaret Court for the most ever.
After the match, which included an epic second set that lasted 1 hour, 44 minutes, Djokovic reflected on the significance of the moment.
“It obviously means the world to me, I’m really living my childhood dream to compete at the higher level in sport, which has given me and my family so much from difficult circumstances,” he said. “I never thought I would be here but I thought I had a shot at history. Why not grab it when it is presented?”
While still on the court, Djokovic displayed a shirt featuring a picture of himself and Kobe Bryant with the caption “Mama Forever.”
A touching tribute to the late basketball legend.
“I thought of doing this t-shirt eventually, if I get the chance to win the tournament, about seven days ago,” he explained. “I didn’t share it with anyone until a few days ago when I asked my people to help me out to make this shirt.
“Kobe was a close friend, we chatted a lot about winners mentality,” the 36-year-old star from Serbia explained. “When I was struggling and trying to make my comeback, work my way back to the top of the game, he was one of the people I relied on the most. He was always there for any kind of support in the most friendly way.
“Of course what happened a few years ago with him and his daughter passing, hurt me deeply. I thought ‘24’ is the jersey that he wore when he became a legend of the Lakers and of the world of basketball. I thought it could be a nice symbolic thing to acknowledge him for all of the things he’s done.”
Djokovic defeated 20-year-old Ben Shelton in the semifinals, while Medvedev upset No. 1 seed and last year’s U.S. Open champion Carlos Alcaraz.
Shelton bested Tommy Paul in the fourth round and then Francis Tiafoe in the quarterfinals. After being ousted, the former Florida Gator shared his thoughts on his experience playing at the Open.
“I think I learned a lot about myself these two weeks, knowing how deep I can dig and what I can do competitively out on the tennis court, because I think it’s such a mental sport,” said Shelton. “I think that’s such a big side of it.
“Every loss hurts. It cuts you a little bit. If anything, this week has just motivated me more.”