Daniil Medvedev produced a stunning performance to win his first major and crush Novak Djokovic's calendar Grand Slam dream at the US Open.
Medvedev was utterly imperious as he stormed to a straight-sets, 6-4 6-4 6-4, victory inside a raucous Arthur Ashe Stadium, while Djokovic was left unable to follow his triumphs at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon earlier in the year.
The world number one was flat and devoid of his usual spark throughout as he failed to claim the 21st Grand Slam title which would have taken him past the tallies of his great rivals, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
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But Medvedev deserves all the credit after the number two seed held his composure and irresistible level of play until the very end to secure his first Grand Slam title and follow Marat Safin as a Russian men's singles champion in New York.
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Djokovic had to spend five-and-a-half hours on court more than his opponent in reaching the final, and it certainly showed as he started the match very sluggishly and immediately saw his serve broken.
Medvedev surged into the early lead in clinical fashion, and he did not let his level or intensity drop at all as he proceeded to hold his advantage throughout the opening set to take it 6-4.
The crowd implored Djokovic to get going at the start of the second set, and the tension mounted as he continued to struggle to find his edge. Medvedev, meanwhile, relentlessly pounded his groundstrokes to remain in the ascendancy.
There was huge drama in the fourth game as an already rattled Djokovic was left furious when a bizarre noise accidentally blared over the tannoy just as Medvedev was delivering his second serve at break point down, causing the point to be replayed. Coupled with a weak return, the Serb finally let out his emotions to receive a code violation and boos for racket abuse.
Djokovic’s infuriation mounted further as Medvedev, fresh from somehow holding serve under immense pressure, turned the tables and broke himself in the following game to seize the advantage once more. He duly followed that up by closing out the second set to leave Djokovic very much under the cosh.
Daniil Medvedev and Novak Djokovic after the US Open final
Image credit: Getty Images
The 34-year-old roared back from two-sets down against Stefanos Tsitsipas to triumph in the final at Roland Garros earlier in the year, but he was simply unable to muster any momentum on this occasion and saw his serve immediately broken again at the start of the third set.
Medvedev initially failed to serve out for the victory at 5-2, with Djokovic staging a late but fleeting resistance. Indeed, the Serb was left very emotional as the crowd willed him to recover, and he was visibly tearful as he emerged for the game when his opponent finally closed it out.
Djokovic elected to chase gold at the Tokyo Olympic Games earlier in the summer, adding to his packed schedule, and he looked physically and emotionally spent on the night; Medvedev, in contrast, could hardly have looked more sprightly and inspired as he seized his moment. The Russian, who only dropped one set throughout the tournament, simply had more to give when it really mattered.
Medvedev, who muted his celebrations to respect both the crowd and Djokovic with the calendar Grand Slam having been on the line, paid tribute to his friend.
"First of all, sorry for you the fans and Novak," Medvedev said in his winning speech.
"We all know what he was going for today. What you have achieved this year and throughout your career, for me, I have never said this before, you are the greatest tennis player in the history."
Novak Djokovic (left) - US Open 2021
Image credit: Getty Images
A tearful Djokovic said: "Thank you so much, guys. Congratulations to Daniil. Amazing match, amazing tournament. If there is anyone that deserves a Grand Slam title right now it is you, so well done. I wish you many more Grand Slams, many more majors to follow, and I am sure you will be on this stage again in the future.
"I would like to say that tonight, even though I have not won the match, my heart is filled with joy and I am the happiest man alive because you guys made me feel very special on the court.
You guys touched my soul. I have never felt like this is New York. I love you guys.
"Thank you so much for your support and everything you have done tonight for me. I love you and I will see you soon. Thank you."
The world number one will no doubt bounce back in 2022 as he eyes an astonishing 10th Australian Open triumph, but he has been made to wait it out until next season to claim a 21st Grand Slam title. Who knows if a calendar Grand Slam will be on the cards for him again when he returns to New York.
But the night belonged to Medvedev as he broke his Grand Slam final duck at the third attempt. At the age of 25, he has a huge opportunity now to kick on with his maiden major title under his belt and a game which remains electrifying when he's in the groove, as he very much has been at Flushing Meadows.
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