Daniil Medvedev shattered Novak Djokovic’s Grand Slam dream with a straight-sets victory in the US Open final on Sunday, denying the world number one a record-breaking 21st major men’s singles title.
Daniil Medvedev defeated Novak Djokovic in dominant fashion, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, to win the men’s singles title at the 2021 US Open. With the win, Medvedev played spoiler to Djokovic’s bid to become the first man in 52 years to win all four majors — the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open — in the same year, also known as the calendar-year Grand Slam. It is Medvedev’s first career Grand Slam singles title.
Djokovic was attempting to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to complete the Grand Slam. Only five players in the history of tennis have won all four Grand Slams in a calendar year: Steffi Graf (1988), Margaret Court (1970), Maureen Connolly (1953), Don Budge (1938) and Laver (1962, 1969). Serena Williams came close in 2015 but was upset by Roberta Vinci in the US Open semifinals. Winning all four majors in a single tennis calendar year is rare and may not come again.
With Sunday’s victory, Medvedev also shut down Djokovic’s chance (at least, this season) to overtake his rivals, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, for the all-time men’s record of Grand Slam singles titles. Now, Djokovic will finish out this tennis season still tied with his ‘Big Three’ competitors at 20 Grand Slam titles each. Djokovic, the youngest of the ‘Big Three’ at 34-years-old, has won eight of his 20 major championships in the last three years. Both Nadal (35-years-old) and Federer (40-years-old) missed this year’s US Open tournament with injuries. Djokovic, did, however tie Federer for the most Grand Slam final appearances in history with 31.
“I would like to say, that tonight, even though I have not won the match, my heart is filled with joy and I’m the happiest man alive because you guys made me feel very special on the court,” Djokovic said after the loss, fighting back tears. “I’ve never felt like this in New York.”
Medvedev jumped out to a dominant start in the championship match. His first and second serves were incredible and the only time Djokovic, one of the world’s best returners, managed to break him came at 5-3 in the third set. With his impressive hard court speed — he’s arguably the fastest on tour right now — Medvedev seemingly got to every ball, which left Djokovic scrambling to pick up the pieces after a few dropshots Medvedev managed to reach. Djokovic, perhaps fatigued or stunned by nerves, seemed slow in the outset of the match. It appeared that Medvedev had done some serious prep after the pair’s last meeting at the Australian Open earlier this year in February where Djokovic dominated.
Down 4-0 in the third set, Djokovic rallied to bring it to 5-4. Medvedev missed his first championship point at 5-2, 40-30, and later lost another via double fault. But, he regained composure and brushed off the tension to ultimately clinch the match on his third chance two games later. Medvedev finished the match with 16 aces, 38 winners and an 81 win percentage on his first serve.
“It’s the first time I’m so nervous saying my speech,” Medvedev said during the post-match trophy ceremony. “Sorry for you fans and Novak because we all know what he was going for today.”
“For me, you are the greatest tennis player in the history,” Medvedev turned and said to Djokovic.
It turned out to be true that third time’s a charm, for the 25-year-old Medvedev at least. Playing in just his third career Grand Slam final, Medvedev became the first player of his generation to defeat any of the ‘Big Three’ legends in a Grand Slam final. He’s also just the second player born in the 1990’s to win a men’s singles Grand Slam title after Dominic Thiem (born in 1993) defeated Alexander Zverev for the 2020 US Open title.
On the women’s side, there are three players born in the 2000’s who have already won a women’s singles Grand Slam title; Bianca Andreescu’s 2020 US Open title (born in 2000), Iga Świątek’s 2020 French Open (2001) and Emma Raducanu’s 2021 US Open (2002). Medvedev and Raducanu became the first pair of first-time Grand Slam singles champions at the US Open since Pete Sampras and Gabriela Sabatini in 1990.
Medvedev previously lost to Nadal in the 2019 US Open final and lost to Djokovic in the Australian Open in February this year. Since that last meeting in Melbourne, Medvedev took over the world No. 2 ranking and became the second man other than Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Andy Murray since 2005 to hold the spot.
Djokovic, for his part, had managed to overcome earlier threats from the ‘Next Gen’ players this season, defeating Medvedev in the Australian Open final, Stefanos Tsitsipas in the French Open final and Matteo Berrettini in the Wimbledon final but came into trouble when facing Medvedev’s impressive serve in New York this year. It’s also worth pointing out that Medvedev came into this final a bit fresher than Djokovic, benefitting from an easier draw and only spending 11 hours and 51 minutes on court to reach the final, compared to Djokovic’s 17 hours and 26 minutes.
In a thrilling semifinal match on Thursday, Djokovic outlasted world No. 4 Alexander Zverev of Germany — who knocked him out of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and at the time, shut down his bid for a Golden Slam — in five sets to reach the final. That match included a 53-shot rally, the longest of this year’s US Open and Djokovic’s career. Medvedev, meanwhile, took down Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in straight sets, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2, on Thursday to reach the final. The Russian made quick work of his competition all tournament, dropping only one set throughout which makes Medvedev the first man since Nadal in 2010 and second since Ivan Lendl in 1987 to drop only one set en route to a US Open title.