Daniil Medvedev  has upset Novak Djokovic’s  search of an elusive calendar Grand Slam, winning the US Open final in straight sets to claim his first-ever major.
In doing so, he becomes just the second man born in the 1990s/2000s to win a singles Grand Slam title – behind Dominic Thiem – such is the dominance of Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal on the ATP tour in the past two decades.
It has been a complete contrast to the WTA tour, which hosted two maiden Grand Slam finalists at the US Open this year, while the top two seeds made it through the fortnight at Flushing Meadows in the men’s singles.
The biggest stars in tennis were in attendance for the finale of an incredible two weeks in New York, with Dylan Alcott showing off the beverage-holding capacity of the final puzzle piece to his 2021 Golden Slam.
In a rematch of the Australian Open final earlier this year, Djokovic again got out to a slow start and found himself at a deficit early in the first set.
A break in the opening game of the opening stanza was all the towering Russian needed to keep the Serbian world number one at bay, producing fine service games from the get-go to close out the first set 6-4 in complete comfort.
Medvedev didn’t give up a break point, with Djokovic unable to take even two points off the world number two on any of his five service games in the first set.
That changed early in the second as Djokovic found some success in returning the Medvedev serve, but he faltered on his three break point opportunities and let him back into his own service game with wild returns. From 0-40, Medvedev fought back and evened the set up at one-apiece before going on to make Djokovic pay in a service game of his own.
The Serb showed visible frustration at his inability to close out the opportunities, smashing his racquet in front of the vocal Flushing Meadows crowd.
It felt ludicrous to think this of a 20-time Grand Slam winner who is aiming to surpass Nadal and Federer with this victory, but there didn’t seem a way past the length of Medvedev when he sat so deep in the court for his returns.
Djokovic couldn’t find the angles and pace to win easy points which made each of his service games a fight, whereas Medvedev’s ball pace was getting him through unscathed. He recorded 16 aces for the match.
Gaining the ascendency with a break to make it 3-2, Medvedev again didn’t give Djokovic a look-in with his classy service games to close out the set 6-4 and take a commanding 2-0 set advantage.
With one hand on the trophy but past Djokovic finals firmly in his mind where he has come back from deficits, Medvedev ramped up the pressure even further in the third. He broke in the opening game, held his service, then went and broke Djokovic again.
Taking a commanding 4-0, then 5-1 advantage in the third set, it looked all but over for Djokovic’s search for a calendar Grand Slam.
Yet, Medvedev had never been presented a championship point in a major final before, and the stress wore down on him.
At 5-2 and advantage, the world number two double-faulted, then double-faulted again, then produced an unforced error to gift the game to Djokovic in his first break of serve for the match.
The Serb finished off his service game and put the pressure back on Medvedev, who again double-faulted on his second championship point.
He made no mistake on his third opportunity, however, and collapsed to the ground in realisation of what he’d accomplished. Medvedev won the 2021 US Open in straight sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
It is not often that the ‘Big 3’ are defeated in Grand Slams. They carry 60 between them, all equally divided at 20-apiece, with Thiem saluting at the US Open 12 months ago when Nadal and Federer weren’t in the draw and Djokovic was disqualified.
Medvedev’s victory is an inspiration for rising tennis stars who have been unable to bridge that final gap to immortality as a major winner.
It ends a remarkable – and emotional – 2021 for Djokovic. He has looked unbeatable at times in winning three Grand Slams on three different surfaces, and a 27-1 record in majors for a calendar year is an absurd achievement for one of the greatest athletes of all time.
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