Using a stunning show of power and inventiveness, Daniil Medvedev defeated Novak Djokovic in the finals of the United States Open on Sunday, putting a stop to Djokovic’s quest to become the first player in 52 years to win all four Grand Slam events in a calendar year. It was the last twist in a tournament that had been overflowing with breathtaking performances.
While Rod Laver will continue to be the only member of modern men’s tennis’s most exclusive club, the 2021 U.S. Open will be dominated by an 18-year-old British woman named Emma Raducanu, who rose from being the 150th-ranked player to becoming a Grand Slam champion, in the most unlikely tennis storey of all, she will be remembered primarily as the first female to win a Grand Slam singles title.
Originally, this was meant to be Djokovic’s moment, the day when he would eventually surpass both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in terms of overall greatness and officially become the best player in history.
Medvedev got out to a quick start, breaking Djokovic’s serve in the very first game of the match and denying Djokovic several opportunities to win the opening set. That was never intended to be a factor. Djokovic, 34, has been wobbly in the opening stages of matches over the previous two weeks before increasing his level and roaring back to win match after match. He would very certainly change the script once again.
And he had the opportunity, earning three break chances in Medvedev’s first service game, and then another with Medvedev serving at 1-2 in the second set when the sound system malfunctioned and disrupted one of Medvedev’s serves, allowing him a second chance to preserve the game and force a decider.
With one point and then another, the weight of it all finally broke the guy who had before seemed to be invincible. Djokovic destroyed his racket with a hard smack on a court that had previously given him a slew of major titles for him.
Djokovic had most recently defeated Medvedev in a lopsided fight at the Australian Open in February, a victory that feels like a lifetime ago at a time when no one was talking about anybody winning a Grand Slam.