On the day Novak Djokovic hoped to write one of the greatest chapters in tennis history, Daniil Medvedev showed that the leading role in the US Open final would be decided on the court, by whoever played the best.
Arguably, that tennis player was the Russian, who with a dominant and surprising performance in New York beat the Serbian by 3 sets to 0 (6/4, 6/4 and 6/4), in 2 hours and 15 minutes of game.
The only scare occurred after being broken by serving to victory and having match point, but he still had the advantage to recover and close the match without losing sets — he had only one partial lost throughout the tournament.
This was Medvedev, 25,’s third final in a Grand Slam tournament, and his first title at that level after defeats to Rafael Nadal at the 2019 US Open and Djokovic at this year’s Australian Open.
The Serb, on the other hand, missed out on a chance to achieve two of the sport’s greatest achievements at once, something he never hid that he was keenly aiming for. “It’s hard to swallow this defeat, considering everything that was at stake,” he admitted. “I was glad it was over, because the preparation for the tournament and everything I had to face in the last few weeks was just too much to deal with.”
He was looking to become only the sixth tennis player to finish the Grand Slam in the singles bracket, that is, to win the four main tournaments on the circuit (Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon are the others) in the same year, and also to break the men’s record of 20 titles. With the defeat, it remained tied in the two dozen with Roger Federer and Nadal.
Throughout history, three tennis players closed the Grand Slam before the professional era: Americans Don Budge (1938) and Maureen Connolly (1953) and Australian Rod Laver (1962).
Laver, who watched this Sunday’s game at Arthur Ashe Stadium, repeated the feat in 1969, already in professionalism, and was followed by compatriot Margaret Court (1970) and German Steffi Graf (1988), who also won the Olympic Games tournament. from Seoul in the same year and obtained the only Golden Slam.
Djokovic, 34, had already missed that opportunity after being defeated in the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics by Germany’s Alexander Zverev and now suffered a second consecutive disappointment after thrilling victories in Australia at Roland Garros (against Nadal in the semi and Tsitsipas in the final) and Wimbledon (in front of Matteo Berrettini).
Focusing on his own history, Medvedev became only the second tennis player born in the 1990s to win a Slam. The first was Austrian Dominic Thiem, 28, who defeated Zverev in last year’s final.
Djokovic was disqualified from that tournament for hitting an unintentional jackpot on the line judge in the round of 16 play.
Defeating the Serbian as he was this Sunday, in a decision with so much at stake, adds even more weight to Medvedev’s conquest. “I’ve never told anyone this, but I’ll say it now. For me, you’re the greatest player in history,” he told the runner-up at the awards ceremony.
The last to beat Federer, Nadal or Djokovic in a slam final, who is not another athlete from this trio, was the Swiss Stan Wawrinka, 36, beating the Serbian in the US Open in 2016.
This helps to scale the size of Medvedev’s achievement this Sunday. Deputy leader of the ranking, he has established himself as the main name of his generation, after also winning four Masters 1,000 titles and one ATP Finals, in 2020.
The 1.98 m tall Russian and peculiar technique — awkward, for some —, which hides his rare combination of power and agility, was not the most famous tennis player in his age group, but he grew every year on the professional circuit. .
Known for his irascible behavior at the beginning, the athlete — who was part of his sport training in France and now lives in Monte Carlo — also learned to control his nerves, something Djokovic was unable to do this Sunday, being technically and mentally swallowed by the opponent.
Despite this, it was a rare occasion that he had the support of the crowd at Ashe, something that moved him. “Tonight, even though I didn’t win the match, my heart is full of joy because you guys made me feel so special. You have touched my soul. I never felt that way in New York.”
But it wasn’t enough to stop Medvedev. He hit 16 aces (despite having committed nine double faults) and didn’t suffer from the best striker on the circuit, which can be credited to the performance of both. He also got more winning balls (38 to 27) and made fewer unforced mistakes (31 to 38).
The champion showed solidarity at the ceremony. “I want to apologize for you, the fans and Novak, because we all know what he could do today,” he said. “Today maybe you were a little more in favor of Novak, but it’s completely understandable.”
The last tennis player to get so close to the Grand Slam and also fail to close it was Serena Williams, who lost to Italian Roberta Vinci in the 2015 US Open semifinals after winning all three previous tournaments.
Medvedev was the third Russian to win a Slam in singles, after Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin, each with two trophies.
TENNISMEN WHO CLOSED THE GRAND SLAM IN SIMPLE
Don Budge (1938)
Maureen Connolly (1953)
Rod Laver (1962 and 1969)
Margaret Court (1970)
Steffi Graf (1988) – also won the Olympic tournament and achieved the only Golden Slam
TENNIS PLAYERS WITH MORE GRAND SLAM TITLES AMONG MEN
1st Roger Federer 20
1st Rafael Nadal 20
1st Novak Djokovic 20
4th Pete Sampras 14
5th Roy Emerson 12
6th Rod Laver 11
6th Bjorn Borg 11
8th Bill Tilden 10