He didn't win the title, but Juan Martin del Potro got back to a major final for the first time since his triumph at Flushing Meadows in 2009.
Del Potro, a sentimental favorite after nearly retiring in 2015 due to four wrist surgeries, couldn't overcome Djokovic's steely baseline game.
Djokovic kept up the pressure with an early break in the second before Del Potro broke back to end the Serb's run of 23 consecutive holds.
The eighth game was an epic, lasting over 20 minutes and featuring eight deuces before Djokovic withstood the pressure to hold.
"1-2-3;-Osaka-at-No. -7-after-US-Open-title">rightfully back atop the rankings for the first time in 3½ years, with Nadal at No. 1, Federer at No. 2 and, as of Monday, Djokovic at No. 3. He finished with a flourish, taking the last three games.
Something in the Alpine air clearly agreed with him, though, and he went on to triumph at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open tune-up in Cincinnati and then in NY to grab his 14th career Grand Slam title, putting him third on the all-time list.
If Djokovic is reluctant to speak publicly about the idea of going from his current total of 14 to Nadal's 17 or Federer's 20, the Serb's coach isn't.
Del Potro said he was most proud of not giving up in pursuit of another Grand Slam final, adding: "I got it after nine years, which is fantastic to me because the US Open is my favourite tournament and I'm proud of that".
Naomi Osaka on Monday jumped 12 places to No. 7 in the latest WTA rankings following her historic U.S. Open victory, becoming the highest-ranked Japanese woman since Kimiko Date reached No. 4 in 1995. "But for me, I felt like I really had to focus during this match because she's such a great champion, and I know that she can come back from any point".
Djokovic added: "I would like to congratulate Juan Martin for what he's done in the last four, five years".
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"Of course I'm sad I (lost)", del Potro said.
In one charge at the net, Djokovic picked a del Potro volley off his toes and sent back a victor.
After missing the second half of the 2017 season because of an elbow problem, Djokovic played the Australian Open before having surgery on the joint only for the disappointing results to continue until his quarter-final exit at Roland Garros. Not against Djokovic, who always seemed to have all the answers - and who said he convinced himself that all of those "Oles" were actually people calling out his own nickname, "Nole".
Federer and Nadal have made me the player I am today.
"I was so close to the desired level, and then I completely underplayed that match".
Statistically, the men's final was relatively even.
Despite defeat, world number three Del Potro remained proud after an achievement he never thought would have been possible during his injury hell.
The tiebreaker was resolved thanks to more del Potro miscues on his forehand side, as he looked more and more worn out.
"When you have chances against the top guys and can't make it, they take advantage", said del Potro, who hit 47 unforced errors and 31 winners.