Novak Djokovic’s quest for a record 21st major title that would have completed the calendar year Grand Slam collapsed at the final hurdle in a stunning 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 defeat by Russian Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final on Sunday.
Medvedev, playing in his third major final, at last hoisted a Grand Slam trophy while avenging a straight sets defeat by Djokovic earlier this year in the Australian Open final.
The 34-year-old Serb was trying to become the first man in over a half-century to win all four majors (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open) in the same year.
It would have made him only the third man to achieve the feat after Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969), who was watching from a courtside seat. “It’s a tough one to swallow, this loss, considering everything that was on the line,” said Djokovic.
“I was glad it was over because the build-up for this tournament and everything that mentally, emotionally I had to deal with throughout the tournament in the last couple of weeks was just a lot. It was a lot to handle.”
For the fifth consecutive match, Djokovic found himself playing catch-up after dropping the first set. But this time, there would be no way out as the rampaging Russian kept up the pressure with a barrage of aces while allowing Djokovic a single break.
In the second, set Medvedev stepped up the pressure further and Djokovic showed the first signs of cracking — the Serb destroying his racquet in a fit of frustration after missing two break chances.
With Djokovic on the ropes, Medvedev moved in with the knockout punch, breaking to clinch the second then racing to a double break 4-0 lead in the third.
Such was Medvedev’s domination that the only tiny bit of suspense came late in the third when the Russian was suddenly hit by a bout of nerves trying to close out the match.
Serving at 5-2, Medvedev double faulted on match point, allowing Djokovic to secure his break. After the top seed held serve to trim the deficit to 5-4, Medvedev again had match point and again double faulted.
But the 25-year-old did not squander another chance, gathering himself to clinch the title on his third attempt.—AFp