by Roger Childs

“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 after the loss, fighting back tears. 

Number two too good on the day

Whereas the extraordinary US Women’s Open Final was between two unseeded players, some sort of normality was restored when the number one seed played the number two in the men’s event. The stakes were high. The world’s current best player, Novak Djokovic from Serbia, was after a rare fourth major in a calendar year, but more importantly, a record-breaking 20th grand slam to put him one ahead of fellow greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

For Danill Medvedev, it was the quest for grand slam number one. In his after-match speech he remarked that it was his wedding anniversary and he hadn’t had time to buy his wife a present, so I better win this final! As it turned out in beating Novak Djokovic he was able to provide Daria Medvedeva with a gift of $US 2,500,000.

The weight of expectation

In the four matches prior to the final, Djokovic had come back from one set down to advance to the next round. Could he do it again? Medvedev, who had only lost one set in the previous six rounds, broke the champion’s serve early in the match and took the first set 6-4. The Serb seemed to be feeling the weight of expectation and never settled into his usual controlled tennis game. The Russian is one of the quickest servers on the circuit and fired down 15 aces, one on a second serve. Djokovic just couldn’t pick where they were going.

Medvedev again broke the Serb’s serve early in set two and went on to another 6-4 result. Had Djokovic ever come back from two sets down in a grand slam? Yes indeed – Stephanos Tsitsipas was up 7-6 6-2 in the Roland Garros final back in June and was seemingly cruising to victory when Djokovic roared back 6-3 6-2 6-4.  But not this time – the 2021 US Open Final would not see one of his famed comebacks.

Medvedev hungrier and more consistent

In the third set the Russian again broke early and quickly ended the demolition of the world number one with a perfect 6-4 6-4 6-4. In addition to serving powerfully, Medvedev showed his superb fitness in retrieving Djokovic’s well place ground shots and used his powerful backhands and forehands to hit many winners. He seemed hungrier for the title and his persistence and overall consistency paid off. 

The Serb in addition to being unable to pick where Medvedev’s bullet first serves were going, made too many unforced errors and at times let his emotions get the better of him.

Djokovic was gracious in defeat and warmly acknowledged Medvedev’s achievement.  The new champion apologized to the fans that they were denied seeing the Serb create a grand slam record, but turned to his opponent and remarked: For me, you are the greatest tennis player in the history.