September 13, (THEWILL) – World number one Novak Djokovic was on the cusp of fulfilling his attempt for a calendar Grand Slam, on the one hand, and becoming the man with the most Grand Slam singles titles on the other. But it was not to be as Daniil Medvedev beat him 6-4 6-4 6-4 victory at the US Open finals in Flushing Meadows on Sunday.
By contrast, Medvedev was seeking his first major in a final that was a repeat of his second ever Grand Slam final, this year’s Australian Open when he lost 7-5 6-2 6-2 at Melbourne Park to Djokovic. But in Sunday’s final, the Russian produced a stunning performance worthy of earning his first major.
Inside a loud Arthur Ashe Stadium, the overwhelming favourite Djokovic could not find a way beyond the utterly imperious Russian and was unable to add to his scintillating triumphs at the year’s three earlier Grand Slams: the Australian Open, the French Open, and Wimbledon.
Perhaps the pressure of the moment was too much or the toll of the amazing year he has had had started to weigh on him, but Djokovic was flat and devoid of his usual spark throughout the game. Against a lesser opponent, he may have found a way as he often did, but Medvedev did not let him.
Even though Djokovic could not rise to his stellar level of performance and so failed to claim the 21st Grand Slam title, which would have taken him past the tallies of his great rivals, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, credit must be accorded Medvedev as the number two seed held his composure and irresistible level of play until the very end, as difficult as it can be against even a poor Djokovic.
The lengthy matches that Djokovic had endured to reach the final saw him spend five-and-a-half hours more on the court than Medvedev. It was possibly why the Serb was uncharacteristically sluggish enough to be broken immediately the game started. It was an ominous warning to his supporters that it was not going to be business as usual.
The opportunity was there for the taking and Medvedev took it to surge into the early lead in clinical fashion. It is to Medvedev’s credit that his level or intensity stayed very high to see him take the opening set 6-4.
Djokovic struggled to get some consistency going at the start of the second set, with the crowd encouraging him. The Serb produced some electrifying displays but Medvedev was relentless in pounding his groundstrokes to remain in the ascendancy in the second set.
The levels of tension packed into the game as the second set appeared to be slipping from Djokovic’s grasp was evidenced by the huge drama that took place in the fourth game of the set. The rattled Djokovic was left furious when a bizarre noise accidentally blared over the loudspeaker at the moment Medvedev delivered his second serve at break point down.
The serve had to be replayed only for the Serb to respond with a weak return to see the point go to Medvedev. The Serb’s frustrations finally boiled over as he wrecked his racket, earning a code violation for racquet abuse and boos from some in the crowd.
It did not get better after the physical outburst and apparent loss of internal calm. The more controlled Medvedev, fresh from somehow holding serve under immense pressure, turned the tables and broke Djokovic to seize the advantage once more. Then, he served out the set for his second 6-4 win of the final.
There was still hope for the world number one as he had experience coming back from being two sets down to win a final. However, the possibility of that happening on Sunday were slim to none.
Medvedev carried the momentum of the second set victory into the third, making sure to nip any thoughts of a comeback in the bud immediately. He broke Djokovic again to begin the third set. He raced to a 5-1 lead and served for victory with one hand firmly on the trophy only to see Djokovic stage a fleeting resistance.
The 34-year-old was being backed by the crowd now to recover as tears welled in his eyes and he fought with all the strength left in him. But a tight calendar schedule that included the Olympics singles and mixed doubles events seemed to have left him with not much in the tank to see him mount a winning comeback.
As for the Russian, Medvedev had proven himself worth his second seeding for the US Open. He only dropped one set throughout the tournament and quite literally had more to give when it really mattered. That was why he was able to survive Djokovic’s late-game holdout to take the third set 6-4 and the 2021 US Open title with it.
The 25-year-old secured his debut major at his third attempt. The last Russian to win the men’s singles tennis event in New York was Marat Safin in 2000.