How Medvedev Beat Djokovic to Win the U.S. Open

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Sept. 12, 2021, 6:34 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 6:34 p.m. ETDaniil Medvedev won his first Grand Slam title by defeating Novak Djokovic, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.Credit…Ben Solomon for The New York Times

Novak Djokovic said he was going to play this match as if it were the last of his career, that he was going to pour every ounce of his heart and soul into trying to do what few thought could ever be done again.

It was not enough.

With a startling display of power and creativity, Daniil Medvedev upset Djokovic, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, in the final of the U.S. Open on Sunday, ending Djokovic’s bid to become the first man in 52 years to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in a calendar year. It was one last twist in a tournament that overflowed with stunning performances.

For at least another year, Rod Laver will remain the lone member of the most exclusive club in modern men’s tennis, and the 2021 U.S. Open will forever belong primarily to an 18-year-old British woman named Emma Raducanu, who went from being the 150th-ranked player to a Grand Slam champion in the most unlikely tennis tale of them all.

This was supposed to be Djokovic’s moment, the day that he would finally surge past Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and officially become the greatest player of all time.

Credit…Ben Solomon for The New York Times

Instead, whatever spirits pull the strings of this uniquely exasperating sport intervened in the form of a lanky 25-year-old Russian, a neighbor of Djokovic’s in their adopted home of Monaco who is sure now to create any number of awkward encounters at Monte Carlo’s cafes and grocery stores and at the local tennis club where both of them train.

Medvedev started fast, breaking Djokovic’s serve in the first game of the match and giving Djokovic few chances to take the first set. That was not supposed to matter. Djokovic, 34, had been shaky early in matches for two weeks, before raising his level and storming back for win after win. Surely, he would flip the script once more.

And he had the opening, three break points on Medvedev’s first service game, and then another with Medvedev serving at 1-2 in the second set, when the sound system malfunctioned and interrupted one of Medvedev’s serves, giving him a fresh chance to save the game.

When Medvedev took that point and then another, the weight of it all finally broke the man who had seemed unbreakable. Djokovic dismantled his racket with a violent smack on a court that had delivered him so many championships before.

A game later, Medvedev curled a backhand onto Djokovic’s toes as he charged to the net, and when Djokovic’s volley floated long, the chance to crush a dream was just a few more games and one set away.

“He was going for huge history,” Medvedev said. “Knowing that I managed to stop him, it definitely makes it sweeter.”

Djokovic had beaten Medvedev most recently in a lopsided battle in February for his ninth Australian Open title, a moment that seems a lifetime ago, when no one was talking about anyone winning a Grand Slam.

Credit…Ben Solomon for The New York Times

And yet, when the draw for the U.S. Open came out two weeks ago, it looked daunting for Djokovic. Matteo Berrettini, the big-serving Italian, loomed in the quarterfinals. Alexander Zverev, the talented German who knocked off Djokovic at the Olympics and was the hottest player in the world at the start of this tournament, was likely to be his semifinal foe. And if Djokovic could get through those players, he was most likely going to meet Medvedev, the world’s second best player, whose game, a beguiling mix of power and spins, seems to grow more dangerous with each passing month. He was a fitting final obstacle for Djokovic in the hunt for their sport’s biggest prize.

Medvedev stands 6 feet 6 inches tall and is as skinny as a bamboo pole. At first glance, he looks like nobody’s idea of a professional athlete. He will scurry around the court creating shots that few can see coming, then bomb an ace or pound a flat backhand down the line.

Coming into the tournament, conventional wisdom held that the only way to beat Djokovic was to take the racket out of his hands with so many unreturnable balls that one of the greatest defenders in the sport would not be able to survive the onslaught.

Medvedev did that and so much more, pushing Djokovic back on his heels and handcuffing him at the net on those handful of points that decide every tennis match, with history on the line and 23,000 fans desperate to witness it.

For Djokovic, the loss delivered a disappointment that practically no one but Serena Williams could understand. She had been the last player to enter the year’s final major championship with a shot at the Grand Slam. She, too, fell to an underdog, Roberta Vinci of Italy, on the same court in Arthur Ashe Stadium, in the 2015 semifinals.

On a personal level, this loss most likely stung Djokovic in a way that Williams may never have felt. Djokovic has spent most of his adult life chasing legends who claimed this sport as their own just a few years before he burst onto the scene. He proved early on that he could be the equal of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, then sagged back, only to come back stronger and repeat the cycle time and again.

Credit…Ben Solomon for The New York Times

He entered this tournament tied with Federer and Rafael Nadal in the race for the most career Grand Slam titles, with 20. He desperately wants that record, to seal his legacy as the greatest player in tennis history.

Djokovic’s compatriots from Serbia worship him, but he has been mostly unloved elsewhere, until Sunday, when seemingly everyone wanted to see him deliver. Djokovic has spent more time ranked as the world No. 1 than Nadal or Federer, and is the only one who has a winning record against those two chief rivals. Yet nothing would declare him as the greatest of all like winning the four Grand Slam tournaments in a single year.

Federer and Nadal have never come close, and most likely never will. This year, Djokovic beat Nadal in his kingdom in Paris, where he has won 13 French Open titles. Then Djokovic captured Wimbledon for a sixth time in July, on the grass that Federer has long treated like his front lawn.

He could not win the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo this summer for the fourth jewel of the so-called Golden Slam, something only Steffi Graf has accomplished.

Djokovic soaked up the adoration of his fellow athletes in the Olympic Village, but lost to to Zverev in the semifinals and then to Pablo Carreño Busta in the bronze medal match. The heat and weight of the journey were beginning to take their toll.

Djokovic took nearly a month off from competition, then came to New York to finish his mission, to make things right. A year ago he swatted a ball in anger after losing the first set of his fourth-round U.S. Open match, without any regard for where the ball was headed. It rocketed toward the throat of a line judge, requiring an automatic disqualification.

Djokovic’s first six matches at the 2021 U.S. Open followed a mostly familiar pattern — some early shakiness, including losses in first sets of four consecutive matches, before Djokovic the assassin emerged to take care of business.

It took five sets against Zverev in the semifinal. When that was over, and there was just one match to go, Djokovic embraced the size of the moment at hand — with his heart and his soul and everything else he had. Surely, that would be enough.

Tennis, though, can be so hard sometimes, even for the world’s greatest player, who had made it look so easy for so long.

Credit…Ben Solomon for The New York Times

He refused to go quietly, standing firm late in the third set and saving match point as Medvedev succumbed to the pressure of closing out his first Grand Slam title. He produced two double faults and an ugly backhand into the net, and Djokovic rode the deafening cheers of the crowd to battle back to within a game.

It had taken so long for the fans to get behind him, an entire career really, but now they were there, and as Djokovic sat in his chair, he smiled at the throngs, teared up momentarily and pumped his fist, all the while knowing how deep the hole he had dug for himself really was.

Maybe one day that moment will serve as decent consolation for not winning the Grand Slam. He would later say that those rousing cheers meant as much as a 21st Grand Slam title. There are worse things.

Back on the court, Medvedev had his nearly insurmountable lead, and he made sure not to waste his second chance to serve out the championship. He blasted one last serve that Djokovic could not get back over the net, ending the most difficult of quests in a way that few could have imagined.

There would be no Grand Slam, but there was love, and Djokovic, who is at once a sentimentalist, a warrior and a deep thinker with an impetuous streak that has often gotten him into trouble, knew that was not nothing.

“My heart is filled with joy, and I am the happiest man alive because you guys made me feel that way on the court,” he said just before raising a plate instead of a trophy. “I never felt like this.”

Sept. 12, 2021, 6:32 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 6:32 p.m. ET

Medvedev, the newly crowned champion, offering some graceful words to Djokovic after acknowledging the history that Djokovic had been chasing in this match: “For me you are the greatest player in history.”

Sept. 12, 2021, 6:32 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 6:32 p.m. ET

Medvedev, an avid video game player, also confirmed at the end of his acceptance speech that his celebration had been “L2 + Left,” a FIFA goal celebration where the player collapses to the ground like a brick. Medvedev assured the crowd that only “legends” would understand what he meant.

Sept. 12, 2021, 6:30 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 6:30 p.m. ET

Djokovic held for 4-5 in the third set, and walked to his chair with a grin, and thanked the crowd for its support.

Djokovic then appeared to begin crying and shaking, covering his face with a towel on the changeover.

Medvedev, who showed considerably less emotion, will attempt to serve for the U.S. Open title a second time.

Sept. 12, 2021, 6:26 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 6:26 p.m. ET

Daniil Medvedev earned a championship point up 5-2, 40-30 in the third point, but double faulted.

Then Medvedev double faulted again.

Then Medvedev dumped a forehand into the net to give Djokovic his first break of the match for 3-5 in the third set.

Medvedev still has a cushion on the scoreboard, but that was a considerable wobble.

Credit…Ben Solomon for The New York Times

Sept. 12, 2021, 6:28 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 6:28 p.m. ET

Djokovic has to give the crowd a lot of credit there — they clearly want him back in this and cheered to the point of disrupting Medvedev’s serve on championship point. Could this be the beginning of a wild swing?

Sept. 12, 2021, 6:21 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 6:21 p.m. ET

Daniil Medvedev will serve for the U.S. Open title up 5-2 in the third.

Even if Djokovic can muster his first break of the match here, Medvedev would get another chance to serve for it at 5-4.

Sept. 12, 2021, 6:13 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 6:13 p.m. ET

While we adjust to Djokovic’s Grand Slam dream wilting away as he faces a 4-1 deficit in the third set, let’s take a moment to appreciate Medvedev’s game in full bloom.

Medvedev has established himself as a clear world No. 2, and is especially potent on hard courts. He has won Masters 1000 titles in Cincinnati, Paris, Toronto and Shanghai, and also won the ATP Finals last year in London (which included a win over Djokovic).

If Djokovic is indeed being dethroned here, this is the longtime heir apparent taking over.

Credit…Ben Solomon for The New York Times

Sept. 12, 2021, 6:07 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 6:07 p.m. ET

Djokovic seems to have all but thrown in the towel at this point. He’s now down two sets and a double break at 6-4, 6-4, 3-0. He hasn’t broken Medvedev once today, and now he’ll need to do it twice just to level this third set.

Djokovic has hit 21 winners and 32 unforced errors, well behind his opponent.

Sept. 12, 2021, 5:58 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 5:58 p.m. ET

Daniil Medvedev continued to cement his lead quickly in the third set, breaking Djokovic in his opening service game for a 1-0 lead.

Djokovic, who spent more than five hours longer than Medvedev on court to reach this final, appears to be struggling physically. Down break point, he lost steam by the 18th shot of a baseline rally, sending a fairly routine backhand slice long.

To win this match, Djokovic will need to break Medvedev for the first time.

Sept. 12, 2021, 5:59 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 5:59 p.m. ET

We’re getting to the territory where this crowd really wants any highlight by Djokovic (and he’s had plenty) to turn into some kind of sustained run. He went up 0-15 after an aggressive return that he followed into the net, and the crowd gave him a standing ovation as if he had just won a set.

Credit…Ben Solomon for The New York Times

Sept. 12, 2021, 5:52 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 5:52 p.m. ETCredit…Ben Solomon for The New York Times

Daniil Medvedev has tightened his grip on this U.S. Open men’s final, leading Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-4, and putting himself one set from winning his first major title.

Medvedev converted on his third set point opportunity with a strangely pushed drop shot that caught Djokovic off-guard, leaving him stretching for a backhand that went well wide of the court.

The pro-Djokovic contingent inside Ashe has grown more vocally desperate as their player falters in his bid for the Grand Slam, cheering Medvedev’s missed first serves and double faults.

Djokovic is by no means out of this match, of course. He came back from two sets down twice before during this Grand Slam bid, both times at the French Open. In the fourth round of that tournament he came back to beat Lorenzo Musetti, and in the final he came back to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas.

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Sept. 12, 2021, 5:34 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 5:34 p.m. ET

After receiving a code violation for mangling his racket, Djokovic continued to unravel in his next service game.

He opened with a double fault, then hit two more unforced errors to give Medvedev double break point.

Medvedev converted on the second chance when Djokovic couldn’t handle a backhand volley, giving himself a lead of a set and a break at 6-4, 3-2.

Credit…Ben Solomon for The New York Times

Sept. 12, 2021, 5:27 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 5:27 p.m. ET

Djokovic’s frustration became more visible in the fourth game of this second set.

Though he lost a grueling 27-shot rally, Djokovic earned two break point opportunities. The first one, which had to be replayed because of an interrupting sound from the stadium’s speakers, ended with Medvedev putting a volley out of Djokovic’s reach. On the second, Djokovic missed a forehand.

Though Djokovic couldn’t break Medvedev’s serve, he had no problem obliterating his racket after missing his next return. Djokovic received his first code violation of the match.

A reminder, for those who may not remember from Serena Williams’ three code violations in the 2018 U.S. Open final: the first code violation earns a warning, the second code violation earns a point penalty, and the third code violation earns a game penalty.

Sept. 12, 2021, 5:32 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 5:32 p.m. ET

The sequence with the let was bizarre. It sounded like an ad began to play accidentally over the loudspeakers and when the point was called off, Djokovic threw his hands up in frustration (not that it had developed much anyway). Still, tough break during a key point — these little things that have happened so far seem like small incremental annoyances that are combining to lift the overall tension. As if there’s not enough at stake as is.

Sept. 12, 2021, 5:14 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 5:14 p.m. ET

Djokovic put something a little extra in an overhead that bounced into the stands to clinch a service game that was anything but routine. Medvedev had a break point, but couldn’t get there. And the fans celebrated as if Djokovic had taken a big advantage rather than just kept pace.

Sept. 12, 2021, 5:05 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 5:05 p.m. ET

Medvedev passed a huge test in that service game after going down 0-40 and coming back to win. And Djokovic knew it; he smacked himself in the legs four times after he frittered away his third break point opportunity. The crowd wanted Djokovic to get the break, too — they want him to start picking things up.

Credit…Ben Solomon for The New York Times

Sept. 12, 2021, 5:05 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 5:05 p.m. ET

After dropping the opening frame, Djokovic charged back quickly in the second set, earning triple break point on Medvedev’s serve at 0-1, 0-40 with help from a double fault. 

Medvedev bent, but was not broken. From 0-40 down, he won five straight points, starting with a forehand passing shot winner and including two aces.

Djokovic has shown resilience, but not the returns he needs just yet.

Sept. 12, 2021, 5:02 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 5:02 p.m. ETCredit…Ben Solomon for The New York Times

Novak Djokovic finds himself in familiar territory 36 minutes into the final: down a set at the U.S. Open.

Medvedev took the first set, 6-4, without facing a break point, holding onto a break he earned in the opening game of the match.

Djokovic has plenty of room to come back in the best-of-five format, and he’s done it many times here: he has lost the first set in his last five matches in this tournament. Each of the previous four times, he came back to win the second set and the match.

Medvedev has only lost one set at the Open this year, in the quarterfinals against qualifier Botic Van de Zandschulp.

Medvedev was able to play the first set on his terms, hitting more winners (13 to 10) and fewer unforced errors (7 to 10) than Djokovic. But Djokovic at least seems in command of his own after two shaky opening games, and there has been very little separating the two for the past 30 minutes.

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Sept. 12, 2021, 4:54 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 4:54 p.m. ETDjokovic, left, and Medvedev in the men’s singles final of the Australian Open this winter.Credit…Alana Holmberg for The New York Times

When Daniil Medvedev and Novak Djokovic met in the Australian Open final in February, many believed Medvedev had what it would take to dethrone Djokovic at his best tournament. Medvedev was on a 20-match win streak that included a straight-sets win over Djokovic, and he had won three of their previous four matches.

The highly anticipated final fizzled.

After a competitive first set, Medvedev proved hapless in a 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 loss, which gave Djokovic his ninth Australian Open title and the first leg of a possible Grand Slam.

After winning his U.S. Open semifinal on Friday, Medvedev said he had been caught off guard in the Australian Open match when Djokovic used unexpected tactics.

“He was playing different than the matches he did before with me, and I was kind of not ready for it,” said Medvedev, who until Sunday had not faced Djokovic since that match. “So now, I am.”

Medvedev said he had been disappointed by his effort with the Australian Open title on the line, and suggested his flatness might have been influenced by the pandemic restrictions at the tournament, which limited crowd size.

“I always give my best, but I feel like I didn’t leave my heart on the court in Melbourne,” he said. “Even if, of course, I wanted to, there was something not turning up in this match.

“That’s what I’m going to try to do on Arthur Ashe with, hopefully, 100 percent of the fans,” he added. “No matter the score, I’m just going to turn up the heat and try to do my best, even more than what I did in Melbourne.”

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Sept. 12, 2021, 4:46 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 4:46 p.m. ETDiede de Groot after her victory.Credit…Elsa/Getty Images

As Novak Djokovic bids for a Grand Slam, he can take encouragement from two other players who were able to pull off the feat on Sunday.

Diede de Groot of the Netherlands won the wheelchair women’s singles title to complete a Golden Slam, winning all four majors and Paralympic gold.

De Groot defeated Yui Kamiji of Japan, 6-3, 6-2, in Louis Armstrong Stadium to complete the Slam, which has been possible in wheelchair tennis only since 2016, when Wimbledon introduced a singles competition.

De Groot, 24, thanked the U.S. Open for showcasing her final in one of its biggest stadiums.

“That’s the kind of attitude that we need as wheelchair tennis players: to play on the big stage, play our singles match on Armstrong, that’s just such a professional move,” de Groot said. “Those kind of things are needed for us as players to keep improving as well.”

“I think it motivates us,” she added. “We will work harder when people work harder for us.”

De Groot was followed into Armstrong by Dylan Alcott of Australia, who completed his own Golden Slam in quad singles, beating Niels Vink of the Netherlands, 7-5, 6-2.

Vink, 18, is one of the brightest young talents in wheelchair tennis, and he expressed contentment with his result, calling Alcott’s Golden Slam “insane.”

“Losing to the big boy, I’m happy with my second place,” Vink said.

Like De Groot, Alcott thanked organizers for putting the wheelchair finals on a major court.

“Hopefully changing the lives of millions of people with disabilities around the world, that they can see themselves on the big stage doing what they love, so thank you very much,” Alcott said.

After thanking a list of practically everyone he had ever met, Alcott’s voice began to crack with emotion.

“I just can’t believe I just won the Golden Slam,” he said, resting his head on the microphone as he collected himself. “I used to hate myself so much. I hated my disability, and I didn’t even want to be here anymore. And I found tennis, and it changed and saved my life. And now I’ve become the only male ever, in any form of tennis, to win the Golden Slam, which is pretty cool. I just want to thank everybody here in New York for coming out and supporting us.”

Alcott, 30, then hinted at retirement from the sport.

“I’m going to be upfront: I don’t know if I’ll be back here,” Alcott told the crowd. “So I really appreciate everything, I love you so much, and thanks for making a young, fat, disabled kid with a really bad haircut, thanks for making his dreams come true. Because I can’t believe that I just did it.”

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Sept. 12, 2021, 4:46 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 4:46 p.m. ET

Dylan Alcott, who just completed a Golden Slam in the wheelchair quad singles division, chugged a beer out of his U.S. Open trophy when he was shown on the screen in Ashe. Sets the bar fairly high for Djokovic’s possible celebration options tonight.

Sept. 12, 2021, 4:33 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 4:33 p.m. ET

Novak Djokovic has gotten off to a cold start. He sprayed four unforced errors and made only 38 percent of his first serves in the first game, allowing Medvedev to break on his first opportunity for a 1-0 lead. Medvedev then quickly held. Djokovic found himself down 15-40 in Game 3, in danger of going down an early double break.

But after starting with a dreadful stat line of one winner and eight unforced errors, Djokovic found his focus and reeled off four straight winners to salvage a hold, the last two of which were aces.

Medvedev remains up a break at 2-1 in the first set, but Djokovic has arrived and settled in.

Credit…Ben Solomon for The New York Times

Sept. 12, 2021, 4:31 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 4:31 p.m. ET

This crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium is getting a little restless with Djokovic’s start, with uneasy murmurs growing with a few easy, early mistakes. The crucial key word: early.

Sept. 12, 2021, 4:17 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 4:17 p.m. ETCredit…Al Bello/Getty Images

The prize money for this year’s U.S. Open was reconfigured to give a greater share to players who lost in the early rounds, but a decent chunk of change still awaits the men competing for the singles title on Sunday.

The champion will receive $2.5 million, while the runner-up receives $1.25 million.

Djokovic, 34, who has already earned a record $151.9 million in prize money in his career, also stands to gain more than $2.5 million in performance bonuses from his various sponsors if he completes the first calendar-year Grand Slam since 1969.

Medvedev, 25, who has already banked a comfortable $17.3 million in prize money in his career, would also expect bigger pay days from sponsors if he becomes a rare player from his generation to break through for a major men’s title.

In 1973, the U.S. Open became the first major tournament to pay men and women equal prize money; it took 34 years for Wimbledon to catch up and begin offering equal prize money in 2007.

The prize money at the Open made a bigger difference in Saturday’s final between the relative newcomers Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez, both of whom had under $1 million in career earnings before their totals were more than doubled by their Open windfalls.

But for both of the women — particularly for Raducanu, who can tap into huge marketplaces in both Britain and China with her fluent command of Mandarin — the money made off court is likely to dwarf the amounts on their checks from the Open.

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Sept. 12, 2021, 4:02 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 4:02 p.m. ETDanill Medvedev after his semifinal win on Friday.Credit…Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

Daniil Medvedev and Novak Djokovic have followed very different paths to the U.S. Open final. Medvedev has only dropped one set, against the qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp in the quarterfinals. He has needed only 11 hours and 51 minutes on court to win six matches.

Djokovic, on the other hand, has dropped six sets in his six matches, which have taken 17 hours and 26 minutes. Only one of his wins came in straight sets, against Tallon Griekspoor in the second round.

Djokovic can justify some of his travails: He had a far tougher road in terms of opponents. He defeated the sixth-seeded Matteo Berrettini in the quarterfinals and the fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev in the semifinals.

Medvedev, 25, did not face a top-10 opponent before his meeting with Djokovic, 34. Medvedev, who embraced a villain role and sustained a quadriceps tear during his first final here in 2019, said he had a less eventful trip to the final this time.

“This year I didn’t have the stories, and that’s a good thing,” Medvedev said. “I have the experience of two finals of Slams that can help me — doesn’t mean it will — but can help me.”

He added, “The only thing I can say is all what I have left, I’m going to throw it out on Sunday.”

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Sept. 12, 2021, 3:40 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 3:40 p.m. ETStosur, top left, and Zhang Shuai, top right, in their match against Caty McNally, bottom left, and Coco Gauff.Credit…Al Bello/Getty Images

Ten years after winning the U.S. Open singles title, the Australian Samantha Stosur lifted a trophy here again on Sunday, with some help from a friend.

Stosur and Zhang Shuai of China defeated the American teens Coco Gauff and Caty McNally, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, to win the women’s doubles title in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Stosur, who stunned Serena Williams to become the 2011 U.S. Open singles champion, won her first women’s doubles title at the U.S. Open in 2005, when Gauff was only a year old.

Gauff, who fought back tears during the trophy ceremony, was pulled in for a consoling embrace by McNally during the pair’s remarks at the trophy ceremony.

Gauff’s mood brightened when she looked to Stosur and congratulated her on her victory.

“Sam, you were actually my first ever autograph from a professional tennis player,” Gauff said, laughing. “So playing a final against you was really cool.”

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Sept. 12, 2021, 3:29 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 3:29 p.m. ETDesirae Krawczyk of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Britain after winning the mixed doubles final.Credit…Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

One story that may have been overlooked on Saturday, amid the excitement of Emma Raducanu’s U.S. Open women’s singles victory, was the combined success of Desirae Krawczyk of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Britain.

The pair won the mixed doubles championship, giving Krawczyk a third major mixed doubles title this year, one short of a Grand Slam.

The pair defeated Giuliana Olmos of Mexico and Marcelo Arevalo of Spain, 7-5, 6-2.

Krawczyk won this year’s French Open with Salisbury and Wimbledon with Neal Skupski. She is the seventh player, male or female, to win three major mixed doubles titles in the Open era, and the first since Martina Hingis and Leander Paes in 2015. The two other women to have done it were Martina Navratilova (1985) and Margaret Court (1969).

Honestly, just to think about that, it’s just crazy to me,” said Krawczyk, who was born in Palm Desert, Calif., and played at Arizona State before turning professional. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. No, I’m just happy to be able to play in front of a lot of friends and family here and to play with Joe and have our whole team with us.”

Salisbury also won men’s doubles, with Rajeev Ram of the United States, and became the first man to win both events at the U.S. Open in the same year since Bob Bryan in 2010.

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Sept. 12, 2021, 2:58 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 2:58 p.m. ETCredit…Ben Solomon for The New York Times

One interesting factor in Sunday’s final will be the fickle New York crowd, which has been far slower to embrace Djokovic than it has other legends of the game.

It remains to be seen whether the crowd will be more encouraging as he tries to defeat Daniil Medvedev and claim the first men’s calendar-year Grand Slam since 1969.

Djokovic, who is beloved in the Balkans and is also one of the most popular tennis players in China, has struggled to win over fans in countries where the major tennis tournaments are held.

Despite his nine titles in Australia, for example, he remains an object of national derision, as reflected in a game show earlier this year.

The crowd reception in Arthur Ashe Stadium has been mixed for Djokovic during this tournament, far inferior to the full-throated support that Serena Williams received during her Grand Slam bid in 2015.

“Obviously you always wish to have the crowd behind you, but it’s not always possible,” Djokovic said last week.

Djokovic said he thought the crowd was booing him during the first round here this year; spectators were actually enthusiastically chanting the surname of his opponent, Holger Rune.

“It was not an ideal atmosphere for me to tell you that,” Djokovic said. “But I’ve been in these particular atmospheres before, so I knew how to handle it.”

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Sept. 12, 2021, 2:47 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 2:47 p.m. ETDanill Medvedev, 25, could become the second consecutive player in his generation to win the U.S. Open.Credit…Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

Daniil Medvedev was part of the ATP’s “NextGen” campaign, which began in 2017 with hopes of promoting the younger generation of men’s tennis stars who had yet to make major breakthroughs.

Four years later, the same guys have still been winning nearly all the major trophies, with Novak Djokovic, 34, maintaining the dominance he once shared with other members of the so-called Big 4: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray.

That group’s dominance, however, has led to extraordinary stagnation in the sport’s pipeline.

Only one man born in the 1990s, the 2020 U.S. Open champion, Dominic Thiem, has won a major singles title, and he did so after Djokovic was defaulted from that Open after inadvertently striking a line judge with a ball.

Thiem, who turned 28 this month, is hardly young for a tennis player, but he is the youngest active male player to have won a Grand Slam singles title.

That is in sharp contrast to women’s tennis, where on Saturday Emma Raducanu, 18, became the third player born in the 2000s to win a major.

Medvedev, who will try to defeat Djokovic in today’s Open final, would seem best positioned to make a breakthrough; this year he became the first man outside the “Big 4” to hold the ATP No. 2 ranking since 2005. But at 25, he is already a veteran by the standards of most generations.

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Sept. 12, 2021, 2:45 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 2:45 p.m. ETCredit…Paul Childs/Reuters

Novak Djokovic is one match away from completing the Grand Slam in men’s singles for the first time since 1969, when Rod Laver did it in the first full year that major tournaments were open to professionals.

Few have come anywhere near that achievement in the decades since: When he won Wimbledon in July, Djokovic already became the first man since Laver to have won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon in the same year. After winning his U.S. Open semifinal on Friday, Djokovic cited an interview where Kobe Bryant said he wasn’t happy about having taken a 3-1 lead in the N.B.A. Finals to explain his mind-set.

“That’s kind of an attitude I have; job is not done,” Djokovic said. “Excitement is there. Motivation is there, without a doubt, probably more than ever. But I have one more to go.”

By reaching the final, Djokovic has made it one step closer than Serena Williams’s Grand Slam bid came in 2015, when she lost in the semifinals to Roberta Vinci. Djokovic, who has recently followed Williams’s lead in declining to answer questions about the goal that he is pursuing, said he could relate to what she was going through.

“I was talking to Serena; she was very emotional about everything that was going on,” Djokovic said of Williams in 2015. “I can relate to what she’s been going through right now, I understand it now. Obviously, once you’re in that situation, you can really comprehend what a player goes through.

“I understand why she wanted to avoid all the questions about it because in the end of the day, you have to go out on the court and deliver,” he added. “You’re expected to always win. For a great legend that she is, she always has that expectations from everyone, including herself. It’s no different with me.”

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Sept. 12, 2021, 2:42 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 2:42 p.m. ETNovak Djokovic will face Daniil Medvedev on Sunday in the men’s final. Credit…Ben Solomon for The New York Times

If Saturday’s U.S. Open women’s final was perhaps the most surprising Grand Slam final in tennis history — featuring two unseeded teenagers, Leylah Fernandez of Canada and eventual winner Emma Raducanu of Britain — then the Open men’s final is perhaps the least surprising.

It feels as though we have been waiting all year for this, or at least since Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open, then the French Open, and then Wimbledon. Now Djokovic will attempt to beat Daniil Medvedev to win the first men’s calendar-year Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969, and the first since Steffi Graf won a Golden Slam — all four major tournaments plus the Olympic gold medal — in 1988. It is arguably the rarest achievement in tennis. A victory would also give Djokovic his 21st career Grand Slam title, putting him ahead of his rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Saturday, Sept. 11, at 4 p.m. Eastern time.

On ESPN and streaming on the ESPN app.

On TSN and streaming on the TSN app.

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Sept. 12, 2021, 2:39 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2021, 2:39 p.m. ETDjokovic has the chance to beat his two main rivals in Grand Slam titles, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.Credit…Nic Bothma/EPA, via Shutterstock

Novak Djokovic has a looming career milestone that has been somewhat overshadowed by his bid to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in the same year. In the U.S. Open final on Sunday, he will be trying to take sole possession of the record for major men’s singles titles with a 21st. That would break a three-way tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Federer won his 20th major at the 2018 Australian Open, and Nadal won his 20th at the French Open last year, tying Federer for the first time.

(Pete Sampras, who won a record-setting 14th major title at the 2002 U.S. Open, is now a distant fourth place.)

Despite his tie with Nadal and Federer in major titles, Djokovic is considered the most successful player in men’s tennis history by most statistical measures. He has spent more time with the No. 1 world ranking than anyone else, at 337 weeks, having surpassed Federer’s record of 310 weeks earlier this year. Djokovic is also the sole player to have won all nine of the prestigious Masters 1000 events, and he has won each of them twice.

The overall Open Era record for major singles titles belongs to Serena Williams, with 23.

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