Daniil Medvedev made history and spoiled it simultaneously on Sunday, winning his first major title with a stunning 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory against Novak Djokovic in the US Open final, which prevented the World No. 1 from completing the Grand Slam.
The Serbian star was trying to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four majors in one season and break a tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most major titles in history (20 each). But Medvedev played calm, patient tennis to become the third Russian man to earn Slam glory, joining former Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin.
“First of all I want to say sorry for you fans and Novak. We all know what he was going for today,” Medvedev said during the trophy ceremony. “I’ve never said this anybody, but I will say it right now. For me, you are the greatest tennis player in history.”
“No matter the score, I’m just going to turn up the heat,” Medvedev said after his semi-final win against Felix Auger-Aliassime. He did exactly that.
Djokovic appeared frustrated and flummoxed throughout what he said on Friday is, “arguably the most important one of my career, maybe”. After letting slip opportunities to break his opponent’s serve in his first two return games of the second set – including after leading 0/40 in his first return game – the Serbian obliterated his racquet. He never recovered.
Medvedev made his first major final two years ago at the US Open on the same court inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. On that occasion, the Russian suffered a heartbreaking five-set defeat against Nadal. But this time, Medvedev controlled the match from the first game and earned the biggest win of his career after two hours and 15 minutes.
“I want to thank you guys,” Medvedev told the crowd. “Today maybe you were a little bit more for Novak, but that’s completely understandable. Throughout the week you gave me a lot of energy, starting from 2019 long ago. It helped me ’til today. It was not easy, but thanks a lot.”
The 25-year-old double-faulted on his first championship point at 5-2 in the third set and lost serve for the first time in the match later in the game. The crowd got raucous to urge Djokovic back into the match from there, and Medvedev double-faulted again on his next match point. But the 13-time tour-level titlist successfully served out the match at the second time of asking, falling to the court after Djokovic missed a backhand return into the net.
Match Stats – Djokovic vs Medvedev
|Stat||Novak Djokovic||Daniil Medvedev|
|1st-Serve Pts Won||80% (40/50)||80% (41/51)|
|2nd-Serve Pts Won||40% (17/42)||58% (22/38)|
|Break Pts Saved||50% (4/8)||83% (5/6)|
|Break Pts Converted||17% (1/6)||50% (4/8)|
|Net Pts Won||66% (31/47)||50% (6/12)|
From 28 major matches this year, Djokovic lost the first set 11 times, including in five consecutive matches from the third round at Flushing Meadows. But this time he was unable to conjure a magical comeback to complete his historic run. During the final changeover, the Serbian cried into his towel as the moment hit him.
“I would like to say that tonight, even though I have not won the match, my heart is filled with joy and I’m the happiest man alive because you guys made me feel very special,” Djokovic told the crowd. “You guys touched my soul. I’ve never felt like this in New York… I love you guys. Thank you so much for the support and everything you have done tonight for me. I love you and I’ll see you soon.”
Djokovic got off to a slow start in the first game of the match, missing consecutive forehands wide to give the World No. 2 an immediate service break. That was all Medvedev needed to speed through the opener in 36 minutes, during which he put on an impressive serving display.
The recent Toronto titlist, who has won 15 of his past 16 matches, saw 59 per cent of his serves go unreturned by Djokovic in the first set. That set the tone for the rest of the match. The Serbian began to find his range from the baseline later in the set, but was unable to bother the Russian, who won all 15 of his first-serve points in the opener.
Nitto ATP Finals champion played stout defence with great depth to force Djokovic to rush his offence. The top seed frequented the net far more often, while Medvedev was content to answer the questions Djokovic asked on court.
Before the match began, large groups of Serbian fans stood outside of Arthur Ashe Stadium chanting “Nole! Nole, Nole, Nole! Nole! Nole!” That pro-Djokovic support carried into the stadium as the fans gave the three-time US Open winner a noticeably louder ovation.
But Medvedev did not shy away from the environment, trying to rally them to his side as the match wore on. There were plenty of celebrities, from the likes of Alec Baldwin, Bradley Cooper, Spike Lee and Brad Pitt to sports stars Henrik Lundqvist, Andy Roddick Kim Clijsters and Laver. But Medvedev prevented them from witnessing the first Grand Slam by a man in 52 years.