Novak Djokovic’s hopes and dreams of an historic Calendar Grand Slam were dashed Sunday by Daniil Medvedev who dominated the world No. 1 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to collect his first Grand Slam title at the US Open.
“A lot of happiness. That’s my first Grand Slam,” Medvedev said on court. “I don’t know how I’m going to feel if I win a second one or third one. That’s my first one, so I’m really happy. Means a lot to me.”
He then turned to Djokovic.
“I never said this to anybody, but I’ll say it right now. For me, you are the greatest player in history,” Medvedev said.
Medvedev, who was 0-3 against Djokovic in the best-of-5 format, broke Djokovic early in the match and was never once in trouble thanks to some flawless serving finishing with 16 aces winning 80% of first serves and not getting broken until the very end.
“It definitely makes it sweeter,” Medvedev said. “For the confidence and for my future career, knowing that I beat somebody who was 27-0 in a year in Grand Slams, I lost to him in Australia, he was going for huge history, and knowing that I managed to stop him it definitely makes it sweeter and brings me confidence for what is to come.”
Djokovic would proceed to lose the opening set for a fifth straight match, but there was no recovery here.
Medvedev kept the pressure on holding with ease against one of the great returners in the game.
Djokovic’s serves and shots just had no bite on them, and he appeared flat in this bid for immortality.
Up two sets, Medvedev continued the rout in the third going up 5-1 before Djokovic got some life. Medvedev got to match point seving at 5-2 but a pair of double faults cost him. With the star-studded crowd getting back into it, Djokovic held and Medvedev had another chance at 5-4.
Djokovic teared up in his towel on the changeover, then after yet another nervy double fault, Medvedev finally put Djokovic away prevent the first Calendar Slam since Rod Laver in 1969.
Laver, who was in the crowd, could only applaud.
“He had a lot of pressure,” Medvedev said. “I had a lot of pressure, too, about the risk on the second serve, it was because of the confidence I had. I knew I cannot give him easy serves because that’s what he likes. So that was the plan. Because of the confidence in a lot of tight moments, I managed to do it well.”
Medvedev admitted to the nerves and some cramping late.
“Started cramping at 5-3, I think because of the pressure at 5-2 where I had match points, I didn’t make it,” Medvedev added. “My legs were gone after 5-3. At 5-4, left leg, I almost couldn’t walk. If you really look the replay, when I walked to the towel, my leg was just going behind. I was trying not to show it. If Novak feels it, it’s not good.
“Again, 40-15, that’s two match points. I was like, C’mon, go for an ace, just try to make it. I had a huge double-fault. Second one was like in the middle of the net. Okay, I have one more. Just try to make a first serve. I made it and I’m really happy.”
A dejected Djokovic said it was special that he felt the love of the crowd.
“Of course, part of me is very sad. It’s a tough one to swallow, this loss, I mean, considering everything that was on the line,” Djokovic said. “But on the other hand I felt something I never felt in my life here in New York. The crowd made me very special. They pleasantly surprised me.
“The emotion, the energy was so strong. I mean, it’s as strong as winning 21 Grand Slams. That’s how I felt, honestly. I felt very, very special .They touched my heart, honestly.”
Djokovic added he just didn’t have his game on a day he needed it the most.
“I was just below par with my game. My legs were not there. I was trying. I did my best,” he said. “I made a lot of unforced errors.
“So just one of these days where unfortunately, yeah, wasn’t meant to be.”
Djokovic had won 12 of his last 14 Grand Slam finals and of course hadn’t lost in best-of-five since the French Open last fall.
“Of course I’m disappointed with the overall game that I performed today,” Djokovic added. “I know I could have and should have done better. But it’s sport, you know. You win some, you lose some. It’s a tough loss, very tough loss. But at the same time I’m happy for him because he’s a nice guy and he deserves it. He really does.”
After ending this journey, Djokovic felt relived to be done with the chase even though he came up just short.
“Was glad it was over because the buildup for this tournament and everything that mentally, emotionally I had to deal with throughout the tournament in the last couple of weeks was just a lot. It was a lot to handle,” Djokovic said.
“I was just glad that finally the run is over. At the same time I felt sadness, disappointment, and also gratitude for the crowd and for that special moment that they’ve created for me on the court.”
Djokovic along with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will now head to Australian still tied at 20. But the new kids aren’t just coming, they are now here.
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