One game away from his candidacy for what would have been the first Grand Slam on the men’s tennis calendar since 1969, world No.1 Novak Djokovic covered his face with a towel, hiding his tears during a tilting.
For 27 Grand Slam matches in 2021 – on hard courts, clay courts and turf – Djokovic couldn’t be beaten. Needing one more win – in Sunday’s US Open final against Daniil Medvedev to complete a major title season and clinch a 21st Grand Slam record – the 34-year-old Serb failed to advance .
Djokovic fell just short of the two historic milestones, losing 4-6, 4-6, 4-6 to first major champion Medvedev at Arthur Ashe Stadium. What was Djokovic thinking as he sat on the sidelines, knowing full well that his quest was moments from its conclusion?
“I was relieved. I was glad it was over. I had to deal with a lot of things mentally and emotionally in the preparation for the tournament as well as in the last two weeks. It was a lot to deal with.” said Djokovic. “At the same time, I felt sadness and disappointment. I also felt gratitude for the crowd and for the special moment they created for me on the court,” Djokovic added.
The last man to complete a Slam on the calendar in a single season remains Rod Laver, who did it twice – in 1962 and 1969 – and was in the stands for the decider. “I’m sorry for Novak because I can’t imagine how he feels,” said Medvedev, a 25-year-old Russian who was 0-2 in the major finals before Sunday’s clash. “Knowing that I managed to stop him definitely makes him smoother and gives more confidence for what’s to come,” Medvedev added.
Djokovic made a lot of mistakes, 38 unforced errors in all. He wasn’t able to convert a break chance until it was too little too late in the third set, losing only one for six.
Many of Djokovic’s issues were also linked to the No.2-ranked Medvedev, who used his 6-foot-6 frame to respond with seemingly effortless ground shots and offered precise serve. Medvedev has won 20 of his first 23 points of service, setting a pattern. He finished with 16 aces and 38 winners in total.
Nerves, annoying noises from onlookers and leg cramps reached the Russian at the very end. He served for the game at 5-2 and was one point away from winning before double faults twice in a row. At 5-4, he scored a second match point and again committed a double fault. At the next opportunity, however, Medvedev finished the job with a service winner at 129 mph.
The second seed swung onto the field on his side with his tongue hanging out, inspired by a goal celebration from a soccer video game.
Results: final: men’s singles: Novak Djokovic lost to Daniil Medvedev 4-6, 4-6, 4-6
Women’s doubles: Caty McNally / Coco Gauff lost to Samantha Stosur / Zhang Shuai 3-6, 6-3, 3-6
Mixed Doubles: Marcelo Arevalo / Giuliana Olmos lost to Joe Salisbury / Desirae
Krakow 5-7, 2-6
1 Daniil Medvedev just lost a set en route to the US Open crown, his first major.
3 After losing his first two major finals, the 25-year-old got lucky for the third time
16 Russia last had a men’s Grand Slam champion – Marat Safin – in 2005 when he won the Australian Open. Mahvedev ended 16-year wait