In Flushing Meadows, in the second set and midway through the third, it appeared that Djokovic had returned to his pattern of pushing Nadal back and controlling space. Nadal rose, though, taking over late in the third, then destroying Djokovic 6-1 in the fourth to win the title.
Djokovic has said it was the championship pedigree of Becker that created the attraction -- suggesting that Djokovic, whose stirring comebacks had created an indomitable on-court persona, saw something in his game and his lapses against Nadal that required attention.
As he enters a fourth career title defense in Melbourne, Djokovic will be playing not only the current field but also for a larger slice of history, one his talent demands and that in many ways he has already earned. But that will only be cemented with several more Grand Slam trophies.