NEW YORK – Novak Djokovic’s candidacy for the first Grand Slam of the calendar year in men’s tennis since 1969 ended a narrow victory with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 loss to Daniil Medvedev in of the US Open final on Sunday.
Medvedev’s surprisingly unbalanced triumph gave him his first major championship and kept Djokovic from winning what would have been the 21st career record.
No.1 Djokovic entered that game 27-0 in 2021 in the sport’s four most important tournaments, enduring the burden of expectations and pressure that came with his pursuit of two-way history over the past seven. months and, in New York, the last two weeks.
He beat Medvedev in the Australian Open final on hard court in February, then added clay titles at Roland Garros in June and Wimbledon on turf in July.
But Djokovic, a 34-year-old Serb, couldn’t reach 28-0. He was just nowhere near his best that day.
He made mistakes, 38 unforced errors in all. He wasn’t able to convert a chance to break until he was too small, too late. He also showed frustration, destroying his racket by hitting it three times against the field after a point, drawing boos from the Arthur Ashe stadium crowd and a violation of the chair umpire code.
A lot of Djokovic’s issues were with No.2-ranked Medvedev, who used his 6ft 6in (1.98m) frame to chase everything and respond with seemingly effortless groundstrokes – much like Djokovic uses his enemies – and delivered a precise portion.
Djokovic reached his record-breaking 31st Grand Slam final with six wins on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows. But he couldn’t quite get the last one he needed.
He remains tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with 20 major titles.
And the last man to win single-season singles trophies at the Slams remains Rod Laver, who did so twice – in 1962 and 1969 – and was in the stands on Sunday. The last woman to accomplish the feat was Steffi Graf in 1988.
Instead, Djokovic joined Jack Crawford in 1933 and Lew Hoad in 1956 as the men who won the first year-long trio of Grand Slam tournaments and reached the US Open final before losing.
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