Medvedev rips up the script for Grand Slam success

Daniil Medvedev lifted his maiden major title at the US Open with a dominant display to shatter Novak Djokovic’s Calendar Grand Slam pursuit.

Daniil Medvedev / US Open 2021©Garrett Ellwood / USTA
 - Alex Sharp

Novak Djokovic arrived on Arthur Ashe Stadium on the verge of monumental history. The boisterous New York crowd backed him, support that ‘reached his soul.’ Even Rod Laver, the last man to achieve the Calendar Grand Slam in 1969, made the trip to Flushing Meadows to witness era-defining history.

However, tearing up the script, Daniil Medvedev carved his own name onto the US Open Roll of Honour.

Celebrating on the menu for Medvedev

Medvedev defied the majority of calls that the world No.1 would achieve tennis immortality and instead, the Russian put on a masterclass to dismiss Djokovic 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 for his first Grand Slam trophy.

2019 US Open final, runner-up to Rafael Nadal in a five-set rollercoaster. 2021 Australian Open, Djokovic serves up a lesson in straight sets. Third time lucky for Daniil.

“Everything that happens for the first time is special. When I won my first junior tournament, it meant a lot to me. When I won my first future, I was happy,” stated Medvedev, also reigning champion at the ATP Finals and three other Masters 1000 titles.

“Now it's a lot of happiness. That's my first Grand Slam… Means a lot to me.

“Russians know how to celebrate. Hopefully I will not get in the news. If I get, it's going to be in a good way. But I'm going to definitely celebrate the next few days.”

Djokovic opened proceedings having played 17 hours and 26 minutes of tennis en route to the final. Meanwhile, Medvedev was fresh after five less hours on court. The 25-year-old was energetic and dialled in, Djokovic seemed lacklustre, physically and mentally drained. History on his shoulders evidently a burden.

In the heart of the match, Medvedev dissolved four break points at the start of the second set to land on two games apiece.

The Russian’s serving, boosted by 16 aces, was exceptional, pinning one of the best returners ever back. In fact, Djokovic only won only 29 per cent of returns points. The 20-time Grand Slam champion, looking to pull clear of Roger Federer and Nadal, couldn’t formulate a back up plan to build sustained pressure.

Medvedev was methodical and precise, the world No.1 for once was powerless. Done and dusted the Russian fell to the court with a celebration picked up from the FIFA football Playstation game.

“I did beat him once in straight sets. Was in London (6-3, 6-3 last November). I think tennis is such brutal sport where there is no room for error when you're playing top guys. I am a top guy; he is a top guy,” stated the Russian, who admitted to getting left leg cramps at 5-3 late in the third set. “It's always about the small details.”

The world No.2 had blinked at 5-2 in the third set, when serving for the trophy a couple of double faults and a loose forehand sparked jubilant scenes in the crowd, urging Djokovic to mount an all-time comeback.

No chance, Medvedev smothered any opening and suggested this maiden major could be the catalyst for further Grand Slam glory.

“I do feel sorry for Novak because I cannot imagine what he feels. I don't know this feeling. It definitely makes it sweeter,” added the Russian.

“For the confidence and for my future career, knowing that I beat somebody who was 27-0 in a year in Grand Slams, I lost to him in Australia, he was going for huge history, and knowing that I managed to stop him it definitely makes it sweeter and brings me confidence for what is to come on hard courts so far, but let's see about other surfaces.”

Calendar Grand Slam dissolved 

Unable to fully function, hampered by great expectations for the past three months, Djokovic’s dream run brutally burst at the last step.

The New York crowd acknowledged his gladiatorial season with booming rally calls, Djokovic in tears at the final changeover, overcome with emotions.

“Relief. I was glad it was over because the build-up for this tournament and everything that mentally, emotionally I had to deal with throughout the tournament in the last couple of weeks was just a lot,” insisted the world No.1.

“At the same time I felt sadness, disappointment, and also gratitude for the crowd and for that special moment that they've created for me on the court.”

Djokovic pointed to Medvedev’s tactical execution and admitted “my legs were not there.” It wasn’t the 34-year-old’s day, but it has most certainly has been his year.

“Unfortunately I didn't make it in the final step. But when you draw a line, you have to be very satisfied with the year. Three wins, three slams and a final,” Djokovic declared.

“In tennis we learn very quickly how to turn the next page. I'll try to draw some lessons, be stronger, and keep going. I still love this sport and I still feel good on the court. As long as there is motivation and that flair, I'll keep riding.”

Looking ahead the ‘Big Three’ remain locked on 20 majors, but as Medvedev and Dominic Thiem have proven in New York, the established order are truly under threat.

“The older guys are still hanging on. We're still trying to shine the light on the tennis world as much as we possibly can,” mused the Serbian.

“I still want to keep going, try to win more slams, play for my country. Those are the things that motivate me the most I think at this point.”

Daniil Medvedev & Novak Djokovic / US Open 2021 ©Garrett Ellwood / USTA