ARTHUR ASHE STADIUM — Donning a No 24 jacket within minutes of victory, the record-breaking Novak Djokovic thanked his family for allowing him to play a “very expensive” sport and paid tribute to Kobe Bryant after winning the US Open final.
Djokovic moved level on Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 grand slam titles when beating Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 in the final on Sunday.
“I don’t know where to start,” he said. “It obviously means the world to me, I’m kind of repeating myself but I have to say it every time, I’m really living my childhood dream to compete at the highest level of a sport that has given me so much.
“Coming from difficult circumstances, a couple of wars, especially my parents, sacrificing a lot to support me. I love you, thank you so much.
“It’s a very expensive sport, at that time very expensive, not accessible, not affordable, but I fell in love with tennis. It was quite a choice I must say, but incredible resilience from my family around me. This is your trophy as much as it is mine. This is your success. I love you.”
Having overtaken Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most men’s singles titles, in levelling Court the Serbian is now one major away from the outright record.
He added: “To make history in this sport is something truly remarkable. Special. In every possible meaning of the word special. I had a childhood dream at seven, eight, to become the best player in the world and win the Wimbledon trophy.
“Then I started to set new goals. I never imagined I thought I would be hear talking with you about 24 slams, but the last couple of years I felt I had a shot at history. And why not grab it if it’s presented.”
During the trophy ceremony Djokovic then unveiled a printed t-shirt reading “Mamba forever” and showing him with “close friend” and NBA legend Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in 2020.
“I thought of doing this t-shirt eventually, if I get the chance to win the tournament, about seven days ago,” he said.
“I didn’t share [the idea] until a few days ago, when I asked my people to help. Kobe was a close friend, we chatted a lot about the winners mentality when I was struggling with injury and trying to work my way back.
“He was one of the people I relied on the most, always there for support in the most friendly way. So of course what happened a few years ago hurt me deeply. Twenty-four is the jersey he wore when he became a legend, so I thought it could be a nice symbolic thing to acknowledge him.”
He added on Sky Sports: “I felt his presence here today.”