Tennis: Djokovic's Grand Slam dream foiled as Medvedev wins US Open

Novak Djokovic (left) holds the runner-up trophy alongside Daniil Medvedev who celebrates with the championship trophy after winning the US Open on Sept 12, 2021.
Novak Djokovic (left) holds the runner-up trophy alongside Daniil Medvedev who celebrates with the championship trophy after winning the US Open on Sept 12, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - Daniil Medvedev shattered Novak Djokovic's bid for a calendar-year Grand Slam with a straight-sets victory in the US Open final on Sunday (Sept 12), denying the world No. 1 a record-breaking 21st major men's singles title.

Djokovic's bid to sweep the US, French and Australian Opens and Wimbledon in the same year for the first time since Rod Laver did it 52 years ago collapsed at the last hurdle, with Russia's second-ranked Medvedev winning 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

“Sorry for you fans and Novak because we all know what he was going for,” Medvedev said.

“What you have accomplished in your career... for me, you are the greatest tennis player in the history.”

A tearful Djokovic paid tribute to the crowd that roared support for him even when all seemed lost when he was down two sets and two breaks.

“Even though I have not won the match, my heart is filled with joy and I’m the happiest man alive because you guys have made me feel special on the court,” Djokovic said.

“You guys touch my soul. I’ve never felt like this in New York.”

With 83-year-old Australian legend Laver among 23,700 watching at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Medvedev dominated Djokovic, keeping him level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal atop the career Slam title list.

Medvedev, the 2019 US Open runner-up, captured his first Grand Slam title in his third Slam final, a rematch of February's Australian Open final, won in straight sets by the 34-year-old Serb as he launched his Slam quest.

Djokovic missed out on his fourth US Open title and will enter 2022 tied with "Big Three" rivals Federer and Nadal, both absent with injuries, on an all-time record 20 men's Slam titles.

Instead of joining immortals Laver and Don Budge, who completed the first men's Slam in 1938, Djokovic became the third man to fall at the final match attempting to complete the Slam after Australians Jack Crawford in 1933 and Lew Hoad in 1956.

Medvedev, 25, became the third Russian man to win a Grand Slam title after Yevgeny Kafelnikov at the 1996 French Open and 1999 Australian Open and Marat Safin at the 2000 US Open and 2005 Australian Open.

Struggle from the start

In the biggest of Djokovic's 1,176 career matches, he made two unforced forehand errors to surrender a break to Medvedev in the first game.

Djokovic saved two break points to hold the third game but Medvedev held through to take the first set in 36 minutes, never facing a break point.

It was the fifth consecutive match in which Djokovic dropped the first set.

Medvedev dropped only three points on his serve in the first set but lost that many to open his first service game in the second.

Djokovic, however, squandered his first three break points of the match and Medvedev held to 1-1.

Medvedev hit a backhand wide to give Djokovic a break chance in the fourth game but he netted a forehand volley then drew back his racket in anger as if to smash the ball.

After botching a forehand on the following point, Djokovic shattered his racket and on the next sent a backhand long as Medvedev held to 2-2, pressure clearly affecting the Serb.


Novak Djokovic breaks his racket after botching a forehand during the US Open in Flushing Meadows, New York, on Sept 12, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

In the fifth game, Djokovic mis-hit a backhand volley to hand Medvedev a break and a 3-2 lead and the Russian held three times to claim the set, Djokovic pushing a backhand wide to surrender the final point.

Medvedev broke again to begin the third set when Djokovic sent a backhand long and again in the third game when a botched volley seemed to signal the end of the Slam chase.

Djokovic held at love in the fifth game but Medvedev held again to 5-1 and served for the match in the eighth game.

Medvedev double faulted on championship point and again, then netted a forehand to surrender a break that kept Djokovic in the match. The crowd cheered his fightback, sensing a momentum swing.

Serving again for the match at 5-4, Medvedev double faulted on his second match point but finally got over the line on his third chance with a service winner after 2hr 16min.