Daniil Medvedev shattered Novak Djokovic’s dream of becoming only the third man ever to achieve a calendar Grand Slam, delivering an absolute clinic of attacking tennis in beating the legendary Serb 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in the US Open men’s singles final on Sunday.
The Russian secured his first Grand Slam title with a performance full of power and precision as Djokovic produced an uncharacteristically low-energy display at the end of a fortnight which had seen him play over five hours more than Medvedev.
Djokovic was looking to become the first male since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four Grand Slam titles in a calendar year, and his defeat also means that he remains on 20 major victories alongside Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal rather than going out on his own as the most successful man in tennis history.
For Medvedev, this was a coming-of-age moment after previous defeats to Rafael Nadal in the 2019 US final and a straight-sets loss to Djokovic in Australia at the beginning of 2021. He not only took on and beat possibly the greatest men’s player of all time but he also held his nerve in the face of overwhelming support from the stands for his opponent. He truly took the match to the 34-year-old from the very start.
Having been 40-15 down in the opening game, Medvedev won four straight points to break Djokovic’s serve and send an early warning shot. After a convincing hold, the Russian then earned himself two break points but Novak gave his first demonstration of his champion quality by battling back to register his first game.
Still, he couldn’t get close to Medvedev, who won all 15 points on first serve and was sending down second serves at over 120mph on the way to taking the first set 6-4.
Medvedev faced three break points at 0-1 in the second but fired back with five straight points including two aces and a further unreturned serve. When Djokovic had another opening against the Russian’s serve at 1-2, a late net call angered the Serb. After losing the resulting point, Novak stopped just short of belting the loose ball in the direction of a ball girl, and later in the same game he took his frustrations out on his racquet, earning himself a code violation.
One game later he was a set and a break down, Medvedev making the most of the three-time US Open champ’s simmering temper and relative lethargy, and by the 90-minute mark the Russian had a two-set lead.
The 25-year-old earned an early break once more in the first game of the third, and a misplaced forehand from Djokovic would secure him a double-break soon after to bring the finish line into sight.
Serving for the match at 5-2, Medvedev served a double-fault to go down 15-30 but when Djokovic went long two points later the Russian had championship point. Two more double-faults, the first on a 121mph second serve, followed and with a wide forehand from Medvedev on break point the three-time US champion finally won against the serve.
At the changeover when down 5-4, Djokovic was seen sobbing into his towel and he remained visibly distressed as he came out to attempt to stay in the match. But this was to be Medvedev’s time, and while he again double-faulted on championship point at 40-15, Djokovic netted his return at 40-30 and the calendar Slam was gone.
This was a fourth win in nine attempts against Djokovic for the new champion, and the momentum of his rise suggests that this might be the first of many majors for the man who for some time has looked like the most likely contender to the Serb’s throne.
As for Djokovic, he said before the final that he might never again get the opportunity to win the calendar Grand Slam. Having come so close, this was a loss that will sting for some time, but Medvedev announced himself as a champion of immense quality.