A game from the end of his bid for what would have been the first calendar Grand Slam in men’s tennis since 1969, World No.1 Novak Djokovic covered his face with a towel, hiding his tears during a changeover.
For 27 Grand Slam matches in 2021 – on hard courts, clay courts and grass – Djokovic could not be beaten. Needing one more victory – in the US Open final on Sunday against Daniil Medvedev to complete a season sweep of major titles and clinch a record 21st Grand Slam – the 34-year-old Serb could not come through.
Djokovic came up just short of the two historic milestones, losing 4-6, 4-6, 4-6 to first-time major champion Medvedev at the Arthur Ashe Stadium. What was Djokovic thinking as he sat there on the sideline, knowing full well that his quest was moments from its conclusion?
“I was relieved. I was glad that it was over. I had to deal with a lot mentally and emotionally in the build-up to the tournament as well as in the last couple of weeks. It was a lot to handle,” 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 court,” added Djokovic.
The last man to complete a calendar Slam in a single season remains Rod Laver, who did it twice — in 1962 and 1969 — and was in the stands for the decider. “I do feel sorry for Novak, because I cannot imagine what he feels,” said Medvedev, a 25-year-old from Russia who had a 0-2 record in major finals prior to Sunday’s clash. “Knowing that I managed to stop him, it definitely makes it sweeter and gives more confidence for what is to come,” added Medvedev.
Djokovic made plenty 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, going just one for six.
A lot of Djokovic’s issues also had to do with the No.2-ranked Medvedev, who used his 6-foot-6 frame to respond with seemingly effortless ground strokes and came up with pin-point serving. Medvedev won 20 of his first 23 service points, establishing a pattern. He finished with 16 aces and 38 winners in all.
Nerves, distracting noise from the spectators and cramps in his legs got to the Russian at the very end. He served for the match at 5-2 and was a point away from winning before double-faulting twice in a row. At 5-4, he had a second match point and double-faulted again. On the next chance, though, Medvedev finished the job with a 129 mph service winner.
The second seed toppled over to the court on his side with his tongue hanging out, which was inspired by a goal celebration from a football 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
Krawczyk 5-7, 2-6
1 Daniil Medvedev just lost one set en route to the US Open crown, his first major.
3 After losing his first two major finals, the 25-year-old was third time lucky
16 Russia last had a male Grand Slam Champion - Marat Safin - in 2005 when he won the Australian Open. Mahvedev ended a 16-year wait