His opponent? Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 Open champ, whose own comeback story is arguably even more compelling than Djokovic's.
That is despite winning fewer Grand Slams - the most lucrative tournaments in tennis - and fewer ATP Tour titles than Swiss great Roger Federer.
Djokovic is bidding for his third U.S. Open title, his second straight Grand Slam title this season and a 14th overall to tie Pete Sampras for third all-time.
There has been a first-time victor in four of the past six Grand Slam tournaments, and 20-year-old Naomi Osaka added to the eclectic mix by becoming the first Japanese to win a Major. "I know he will be back here with the Champions trophy".
Djokovic is now just three Slams behind Rafael Nadal and six back from the record 20 held by Roger Federer. And there could well be an encore as Djokovic had a momentary lapse in concentration while faced with the dual attack from the crowd and del Potro's groundstrokes.
All this after he was slumping a few months ago, a trough that truly began at the end of 2016 when a loss of motivation, private issues and an elbow injury that eventually necessitated surgery quashed his momentum. Now he finds himself on the cusp of his 14th Grand Slam title heading into Sunday's men's final at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Djokovic defeated third-ranked Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro with a three sets win, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3.
Responding to the chants from the crowd for Del Potro, Djokovic said, "This might sound amusing, but my nickname is Nole". Barty and Vandeweghe won the second set tiebreaker 7-2 and won the third 8-6 to win for the second time in four meetings this season against Babos and Mladenovic.
'I think we have pushed each other to the limit every time we get to play each other.
Djokovic passed those physical tests and no doubt enjoyed the cooler air that descended upon the Big Apple in time for his semifinal.
"Federer might have been doing it for over 20 years but Djokovic's peak has been so recent when the prize has gotten so big", explains Kurt Badenhausen, senior editor at Forbes magazine.
It was a match between friends who are evidence of modern medical success.
On court, the match was defined by its many long rallies and impossibly powerful groundstrokes.
"But at the same time, life showed me that it takes time for good things, it takes time to really build them, for things to fall into place, so you can centre yourself, balance yourself and thrive".
Djokovic enjoyed the atmosphere and didn't mind the chants of "Ole", either. Why?
"This might sound amusing, but my nickname is Nole. Now I have a feeling he's (catching) up with them", Vajda continued, slapping the back of his right hand on his left palm for emphasis. Actually today I am. He depended on his hometown friends, a group of whom have been in NY throughout the fortnight to lead cheers in Arthur Ashe Stadium, and worked his way back to the final at his favorite ATP Tour event.
Del Potro, seeded third, was appearing in the second Grand Slam final of his career nine years after reaching his first.
Angelique Kerber went from No. 4 to No. 3.
It was Osaka's strong mental power of never losing her composure that deserves special mention. After three solid service games in the opening set, he threw in two unforced errors to drop serve and the set. He lost a set in two of his first three matches. He was 13-for-16 on net points (81 percent).
Djokovic's strength lay in his returns. Djokovic puffed out his cheeks, knowing the job was virtually done. Depending on how she trains herself in the years ahead, it might not be a mere fantasy for her to continue standing as the top tennis player in the world. I'll see you soon, on the court I hope', the Serb said.