Novak Djokovic said he was going to play this match as if it were the last of his career, that he was going to pour every ounce of his heart and soul into trying to do what few thought could ever be done again.
It was not enough.
With a startling display of power and creativity, Daniil Medvedev upset Djokovic, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, in the final of the U.S. Open on Sunday, ending Djokovic’s bid to become the first man in 52 years to win all four Grand Slams in a calendar year. It was one last twist in a tournament that overflowed with stunning performances.
For at least another year, Rod Laver will remain the lone member of the most exclusive club in modern men’s tennis, and the 2021 U.S. Open will forever belong primarily to an 18-year-old British woman named Emma Raducanu, who went from being the 150th-ranked player to a Grand Slam champion in the most unlikely tennis tale of them all.
This was supposed to be Djokovic’s moment, the day that he would finally surge past Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and officially become the greatest player of all time.
Instead, whatever spirits pull the strings of this uniquely exasperating sport intervened in the form of a lanky 25-year-old Russian, a neighbor of Djokovic’s in their adopted home of Monaco, who is sure now to create any number of awkward encounters at Monte Carlo’s cafes and grocery stores and at the local tennis club where both of them train.
Medvedev started fast, breaking Djokovic’s serve in the first game of the match and giving Djokovic few chances to take the first set. That was not supposed to matter. Djokovic, 34, had been shaky early in matches for two weeks, before raising his level and storming back for win after win. Surely, he would flip the script once more.
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SOURCE: The New York Times, Matthew Futterman