Novak Djokovic’s triumphant return to the US Open marks not just a personal victory but a meteoric rise back to the coveted No. 1 spot in the rankings. The tennis maestro, who missed the tournament last year, displayed his prowess with a commanding 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 victory over France’s Alexandre Muller on Monday night.
This much-anticipated comeback was worth the wait, as Djokovic had to bide his time through Coco Gauff’s thrilling three-set win before stepping onto the Arthur Ashe Stadium court. The evening also featured an opening-night ceremony commemorating 50 years of equal prize money at the US Open.
Reflecting on the late start of his match, Djokovic expressed his excitement, saying, “Nevertheless, I mean, I was excited to go out on the court. I didn’t care if I started after midnight because I was looking forward to this moment for a few years, to be out on the biggest stadium in our sport, the loudest stadium in our sport, playing the night session.”
Djokovic’s absence from the US Open in 2021 was due to his unvaccinated status against COVID-19. His return to Flushing Meadows marked his first appearance since his defeat to Daniil Medvedev in the 2021 final, a loss that dashed his hopes of achieving the first calendar-year Grand Slam in men’s tennis since 1969.
The enthusiastic crowd, numbering over 30,000 and including notable figures like former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, warmly welcomed Djokovic back to the court. The Serbian champion reciprocated the affection, acknowledging the fans’ support.
He remarked, “I was excited to go out on the court; it has been a couple of years, so to come in front of you guys is always a pleasure. Thanks for coming out, and thanks to all the people who stayed to almost 1 a.m. Night sessions at Arthur Ashe are always something special.”
Djokovic’s brilliance shone through as he clinched the first set in a mere 23 minutes, rattling off eight consecutive games before Muller managed to secure his first point, sparking a brief celebration.
Reflecting on his performance, Djokovic stated, “I think the performance explains how I felt tonight, particularly in the first two sets. It was kind of lights-out tennis, really, almost flawless, perfect first set. I’ve probably had the answer for every shot he had in his book.”
Djokovic’s victory also came with the assurance of regaining the No. 1 ranking on September 11. Due to his absence last year and the absence of any ranking points to defend, he only needed to reach the second round to reclaim the top spot from Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz. This achievement will extend his record to 390 weeks as the world’s No. 1-ranked player.
As Djokovic continues his quest for further glory, he will face Spain’s Bernabe Zapata Miralles in his next challenge, following Miralles’ straight-sets victory over American Ethan Quinn. The tennis world eagerly awaits the next chapter in Djokovic’s remarkable career.