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Daniil Medvedev wins US Open, and ends Novak Djokovic's chance at a calendar-year Grand Slam
The second-seeded Russian snapped a two-match losing streak in Grand Slam finals with a surprisingly one-sided win over the world No. 1.
Published Sep 12, 2021
WATCH: Paul Annacone and Lindsay Davenport on Novak Djokovic, who came just short of making history.
NEW YORK—Novak Djokovic’s supporters traveled from far and wide to be in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday. Sheehan Perera, from Austin, Texas, scooped up tickets for a flight and for his favorite player’s match as soon as Djokovic beat Alexander Zverev in the semifinals. Serbian flags and Nole t-shirts were as common as the sight of a Honey Deuce on this flawless late-summer day in Queens. Djokovic’s support, a significant storyline during this full-capacity US Open, was unquestioned.
It made sense: Djokovic was trying to complete the first calendar-year Grand Slam in men’s tennis since 1969, and at the same time, surpass career rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with a 21st major title. Where else would a Djokovic fan rather be?
Then the match started.
Whether it was fatigue, nerves, or simply Daniil Medvedev—the player Djokovic defeated at the Australian Open to earn the first wedge of professional sports’ most challenging puzzle—the 34-year-old world No. 1 simply didn’t have it today. He lost in shockingly one-sided fashion, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, to the disappointment of the majority of fans and the many celebrities in attendance.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Maria Sharapova, Vera Wang, Brad Pitt, Rod Laver—still the last man to complete the Grand Slam—and many other marquee names were in the choice seats. So was Henrik Lundqvist, the recently retired New York Rangers goaltender. Sitting in the President’s Box, Lundqvist could perhaps empathize with Djokovic. In his Hall of Fame career, Lundqvist accomplished everything in hockey but winning a Stanley Cup, coming up painfully short in his only chance. In what was likely Djokovic’s only shot at winning tennis’ crowning achievement, he too came up on the losing end.
But as much pain as the crowd was feeling, it was even harder on Djokovic.
"Thank you so much, guys," Djokovic said, as he took the microphone from ESPN's Chris McKendry with tears in his eyes amid thunderous applause—both common sights in the waning minutes of this final.
Tonight, even though I have not won the match, my heart is filled with joy, and I'm the happiest man alive, because you guys made me feel special on the court. Novak Djokovic
"Sorry, to the fans, and for Novak," said Medvedev. "We know what he was going for today."
I never said this to anyone, but I'll say it today. You are the greatest tennis player in history. Daniil Medvedev
In press, Djokovic admitted that he felt "relief" when the match was over, given the circumstances and immense build-up. He also said that Medvedev and the so-called "next generation" had arrived a long time ago, and that a transition to a new group of major-title contenders was "inevitable." Of course, Djokovic has no plans of stepping aside for them just yet, and he'll begin 2022 tied with Federer and Nadal at 20 Slams apiece.
Like Dominic Thiem, who won last year's US Open, Medvedev captured his first major title after a series of runner-up finishes (Thiem lost his first three Grand Slam finals, while Medvedev was 0-2 coming into today). He dropped just one set at the tournament, to qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp, and served impeccably in the final. He won 42 of 52 first-serve points (81%) and fired 16 aces. Though for as well as Medvedev served, he double-faulted on his first two championship points—one while serving at 5-2, and the next at 5-4.
But the third time—and Grand Slam final—was a charm for Medvedev, who fell to the court in celebration. In his own way, of course:
We will have more reporting on this match and its impact on the game from Flushing Meadows.