Medvedev wins US Open, ends Djokovic’s calendar-year Grand Slam quest

The Russian served brilliantly as he denied Djokovic the victory he needed to join Rod Laver and Don Budge in winning all four majors in the same calendar year

Novak Djokovic & Daniil Medvedev after the 2021 US Open Final Novak Djokovic & Daniil Medvedev after the 2021 US Open Final ©

DANIIL MEDVEDEV (2) d. NOVAK DJOKOVIC (1) 6-4, 6-4, 6-4

  • What happened: A below-par Djokovic was beaten in straight sets by an inspired Daniil Medvedev.
  • You will also learn: The Russian wins his first major and denies Djokovic the calendar-year Grand Slam.
  • Why you should read this: Djokovic also missed the chance to win a record 21st Grand Slam title.

The dream is over. Novak Djokovic’s quest to become the first man to win the calendar-year Grand Slam since 1969 – and to win a record 21st major title, was ended by an inspired Daniil Medvedev at the US Open on Sunday night.

The world No 1 looked nervous and jaded throughout and Medvedev, the runner-up in 2019, took full advantage, serving brilliantly and holding his nerve under massive pressure at the end to win 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 and claim his first Grand Slam title.

“Sorry for you fans and Novak because we all know what he was going for today,” Medvedev told the crowd. “What you accomplished this year and throughout your career, I’ve never said this to anyone before, but I’m going to say it. For me you’re the greatest tennis player in history.”

I’ve never said this to anyone before, but I’m going to say it. For me you’re the greatest tennis player in history.

Medvedev to Djokovic

The crowd had been behind Djokovic all the way through and the 34-year-old was in tears as he let the cheers ring in his ears.

“Congratulations to Daniil, amazing match, amazing tournament,” Djokovic said. “If there is anyone that deserves a Grand Slam title right now, it’s you, so well done.

“I was thinking in both scenarios, visualising myself standing here in front of you guys and what I would say. I would like to say tonight even though I have not won the match, my heart is filled with joy and I’m the happiest man alive, you guys made me feel very special. You guys touched my soul. I’ve never felt like this in New York. Thank you so much. I love you and I will see you soon.”

Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev
Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev

Medvedev’s serve sets him on the right track

Medvedev came out firing missiles with his serve, seemingly intent on taking the attack to the 20-times slam champion, who was trying to emulate Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) and Don Budge (1938) by winning all four majors in the same calendar year.

Djokovic, by contrast, looked nervous and perhaps a bit fatigued, the effort of reaching the final and spending more than five hours more than Medvedev on the court catching up with him.

The crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium were firmly behind Djokovic and his quest for history but things began badly for the world No 1, dropping serve in the opening game of the match.

Medvedev, who took Djokovic to five set in the Australian Open final earlier this year, was serving out of a tree, winning 15 of 15 points on first serve in a first set that took just 38 minutes.

Missed chances in second set cost Djokovic dear

Having won his previous four matches after dropping the first set, perhaps Djokovic had Medvedev where he wanted him.

In those four wins, Djokovic had broken his opponent early in the second set to begin the turnaround and when he held 0-40 on the Medvedev serve in the first game, it looked lightning would strike again.

But this was not the normal, flawless Djokovic. He hammered his legs with his racquet after missing a sliced backhand and the Russian held. At 1-1, Djokovic saved a break point with a good serve and stayed ahead.

The next game proved to be crucial as Medvedev saved two more break points, the first after a reprieve when a loud speaker noise gave him a let and then second, which prompted Djokovic to smash his racquet into the ground three times.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic

At 2-2, Djokovic was rattled and a poor slice backhand that found the net gave Medvedev two chances to move ahead. Djokovic saved one but a poor volley gave Medvedev the break, which he held throughout to double his lead, clinching the set when Djokovic missed an easy pass off a poor drop shot.

Medvedev gets nervous but finds a way

Djokovic was not going for much – in the first two sets he managed just two groundstroke winners – and Medvedev continued to hammer down huge serves, while coping with everything that came at him from the other end.

Another errant slice handed Medvedev the break in the opening game of the third and he held serve in a long game to consolidate the break. The Russian was beginning to look nervous, with some shaky drop shots but Djokovic kept missing easy balls and the Russian moved ahead 4-0.

Djokovic got on the board at 4-1 and Medvedev suddenly looked terrified when he served for the match, the crowd trying their best to put him off. He double faulted on match point at 40-30 and was broken (after another double) and when Djokovic held for 5-4, a comeback seemed possible.

At the change of ends, Djokovic acknowledged the crowd and he had tears in his eyes as they sung their support and though Medvedev double faulted again on his second match point, he found a way to get it done, falling to the court in celebration after claiming his first major.

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