As the ball caromed away and the umpire called out 40-30, the din poured into the bowl of the stadium. Djokovic looked up at the 20,000-plus spectators and flung his arms in the air and pumped them, demanding his due. His face was frozen in an edgy grin, confirming that he was chiding the crowd for having been so volubly pro-Federer for most of the match as well as soliciting its support.
The crowd did what a self-enamored crowd usually does when it's acknowledged: the spectators responded with an avalanche of noise, as if they finally noticed Djokovic now that the match was three hours and 36 minutes old. And they provided Djokovic with the energy he sought.
It was at that moment that the plot veered yet again, that Djokovic turned the match in his favor one last time. He needed the twist, too; he had just handed Federer the break (at love, no less) that put the five-time U.S. Open champ in a position to serve it out at 5-3 in the fifth set. And Djokovic himself was well aware that he had previously recovered from a two-sets-to-none deficit just once in his career (at Wimbledon in 2005, vs. Guillermo Garcia Lopez, a player who's never been mistaken for Roger Federer).
Federer still had another match point, but the atmospherics suddenly were different. He handcuffed Djokovic with a serve and elicited a poor return, but Federer then botched an inside-out forehand that skipped off the let cord and fell out.
Musing over that wicked forehand winner that launched the dramatic turnaround after Djokovic booked his place in Monday's final with a 6-7 (7), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 win, a bitterly disappointed Federer would repeat the precise word his interlocutor used: "Confidence? Are you kidding me? I mean, please. Look, some players grow up and play like that. I remember losing junior matches. Just being down 5‑2 in the third, and they all just start slapping shots. It all goes in for some reason, because that's the kind of way they grew up playing when they were down.
"I never played that way. I believe in hard work's gonna pay off kinda thing, because early on maybe I didn't always work at my hardest. So for me, this is very hard to understand how can you play a shot like that on match point. . . maybe he's been doing it for 20 years so for him it was normal. You've got to ask him."
Understandably, Djokovic's explanation was quite different. On-court in his post-match interview he had described the forehand winner as "lucky." Later, he elaborated: "That forehand return I cannot explain to you because I don't know how it happened. You know, yeah, I read his serve and I was on the ball and I had to hit it hard and it got in—luckily for me. . . Maybe it was lucky because it was in the right moment, but I took my chances. I took my chances, and I hit it very clean."