Novak Djokovic fell at the last hurdle in his attempt to win the calendar Grand Slam when Daniil Medvedev won his first major title at the US Open.
By winning the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles, the world number one gave himself the chance to do what only Don Budge and Rod Laver have ever done in the men’s category by winning all four titles in the same year.
To increase the weight of the story on his shoulders, with the victory he would have left his great rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal behind and would have been the first man to ever have won a 21st individual slam title.
He had tried to keep his thoughts in the present and refused to answer questions about the Grand Slam after his quarter-final victory over Matteo Berrettini, but from the first moments of the final it was clear that he was struggling just as much as Medvedev.
The decisive factor was that the Russian was good enough in his third slam final with a 6: 4, 6: 4, 6: 4 win to deal a real blow to the old guard at least for the younger generation.
He wobbled in sight of the line and served consecutive double faults from the match point 5-2 after being molested by the pro Djokovic people, but the 25-year-old, who lost in his first final in five sets to Nadal in New York, did two years ago decided to serve it the second time.
The second match point resulted in another double fault, but on the third Djokovic scored and Medvedev fell onto the pitch to celebrate a deserved victory.
He is only the second man born in the 1990s to win an individual slam title after last year’s champion Dominic Thiem, and only the third together with Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, who defeated one of the big three in a slam final since Juan Martin Del Potro was defeated Federer in New York 12 years ago.
Tennis and Hollywood kings were there at Arthur Ashe Stadium to see history being made, but the tension flowing through Djokovic’s body was all too evident when he gave up the 40-15 serve in the first game.
Medvedev was beaten well by Djokovic in the Australian Open final in February, but he showed in the opening set that he wouldn’t make the same mistakes by throwing huge second serves and only losing three points on his own.
The crunch moments came early in the second set. Djokovic had Medvedev in the second game at 0:40, but unusual for a man who has a sixth sense of striking in weak moments, he couldn’t take advantage of it.
The world number one then saved a breakpoint, but it was clear that his internal pressure gauge was in the red and he could no longer hold back his emotions in the fourth game.
Djokovic was very unfortunate that a breakpoint had to be repeated after the sound system came to life in the middle of the rally. Medvedev saved it, and then a second, and after Djokovic missed a return at two, Djokovic repeatedly pounded his bat on the court.
Now it was Medvedev who felt blood and pumped his fist excitedly into the crowd as he broke the serve to make it 3-2.
Djokovic had spent five and a half hours longer than his significantly younger opponent to reach the final and lost six sets, including the opening game in his previous four games.
Tennis was used to the Serb always finding a way to win, even as he underpinned a grueling semi-final win over Nadal at the French Open by coming back in straight sets to defeat Stefanos Tsitsipas.
But whether it was tension, tiredness or a combination of both, Djokovic just couldn’t move his legs or find his usual groove, lost most of the long rallies and made simple mistakes on important points.
Djokovic had left the field after two sets against Tsitsipas in Paris and came back as the other player, but here Medvedev kept his foot on the gas to take a 4-0 lead in the third set and looked calm until the finish line just before the Tor was him.
The crowd cheered wildly and Djokovic got emotional as he ended up trailing 4-5, but this time he couldn’t find a way.
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