US Open 2021 – Novak Djokovic falls short of history but soaks in the love

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NEW YORK — Novak Djokovic included his facial area with a towel, but he could not hide his sobs from his courtside chair in Arthur Ashe Stadium. As he desperately attempted to conceal his eyes from sight, he inadvertently exposed far more of his encounter and his thoughts have been on entire display screen for all to see.

Just a single acquire away from reaching tennis immortality, he experienced instead at last demonstrated himself to be mortal immediately after all. Djokovic, 34, experienced no solutions on Sunday for 25-12 months-aged Daniil Medvedev and his blistering provide in the US Open last, as he was handed a stunning 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 reduction.

It wasn’t the way he experienced dreamed about the day.

Sunday was meant to be his coronation as the “Biggest of All Time,” the working day he joined Rod Laver as the only men in the background of the Open up era to reach the elusive Grand Slam, and the tournament in which he surpassed his rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for most main titles by a male participant at 21. He realized how substantial the stakes had been and had stated on Friday he was going to perform the match as if it were his previous.

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But he had failed in his mission, and it wasn’t just disappointment he was feeling in the first times after the match.

“Relief,” Djokovic told reporters before long following about his principal emotion. “I was glad it was about because the buildup for this tournament and all the things that mentally, emotionally I had to offer with all over the event in the previous pair of months was just a large amount. It was a good deal to take care of.

“I was just glad that lastly the run is over. At the exact time I felt unhappiness, disappointment, and also gratitude for the group and for that unique minute that they have produced for me on the court.”

Novak Djokovic fell 1 acquire short of a Grand Slam. AP Image/John Minchillo

The scene at Ashe was every thing Djokovic could have wished. There was a group that consisted of the A-list of the A-checklist — Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bradley Cooper, Spike Lee and Laver himself — and 24,000 other people who preferred to witness tennis history. They chanted, “Novak, Novak, Novak” in the course of the match, no subject the rating, and waved Serbian flags and indicators professing accolades and like. For Djokovic, who has constantly received blended sentiments from crowds, the stage was set for the defining instant of his profession.

But Medvedev was just way too organized, too completely ready for the moment. Actively playing in his third big remaining, and acquiring missing to Djokovic in the Australian Open up final in February, he was determined to make use of a distinct tactic on Sunday, and he squandered no time utilizing it.

Medvedev received 20 of his first 23 services factors — and by no means eased up. He experienced 16 aces and nabbed an astonishing 42 of 52 points (81%) on his very first provide. Djokovic was not able to address the riddle.

“He was hitting his places very effectively,” Djokovic said. “He arrived out extremely determined on the court. You could sense that he was just at best of his capabilities in each and every shot. He had a whole lot of clarity what he requires to do tactically. He has executed it completely.

“The other hand, I was just underneath par with my sport. My legs had been not there. I was trying, I did my most effective. Yeah, I made a large amount of unforced problems. I didn’t have — no serve actually. If you happen to be actively playing a person like Medvedev, who hits his spots so effectively, just aces, will get a great deal of free of charge factors on his very first serve, you are continuously sensation pressure on your support online games.”

With each individual ace or 1 of Medvedev’s 38 winners that whizzed by, Djokovic’s cheeks puffed out in frustration. He had a prospect to split Medvedev, serving at 1-2 in the next established, but was very first interrupted by inadvertent music (later identified as part of the “In memoriam” section that aired on the movie display throughout a split) currently being performed around the loudspeaker and the place was replayed. By the time he finally shed the video game, his anger had approximately bubbled above. He smashed his racket on the ground. Moments earlier he experienced appeared to restrain himself from tossing his racket.



Novak Djokovic demonstrates obvious frustration as he furiously bangs his racket on the ground soon after earning a slip-up in opposition to Daniil Medvedev.

Medvedev rattled off the following two game titles and considerably shifted the momentum, leaving Djokovic couple of possibilities to reverse his fortunes.

He manufactured a valiant effort after losing the initially 4 video games of the third set, and the crowd did its section to will him back again into the match with loud cheers and chants, but it was merely way too late and not ample.

It was all more than in an astounding 2 hrs and 15 minutes. Djokovic’s best report at majors this year, which seemed so untouchable just eight weeks ago, was about. For these who experienced been paying out focus considering the fact that his victory at Wimbledon, it could not have been a complete shock, but it however was a shocking summary to a single of the finest seasons in the latest tennis history.

Following Djokovic received his third significant title of the calendar year at the All England Club in July, the dialogue quickly turned to his skill to realize the “Golden Slam” in Tokyo. Steffi Graf experienced been the only player in record to do it in 1988, and Djokovic, possessing appeared invincible in the major matches of the a long time, seemed a near lock to get gold. The US Open up seemed like a mere formality.

But the Olympic Games failed to go to approach possibly.

Inspite of staying up a established and a crack, Djokovic missing to Alexander Zverev in the semifinals, thus ending his likelihood to be part of Graf in the history textbooks. The future working day, it bought even even worse. Playing Pablo Carreno Busta in the bronze-medal match, he could not control his mood and threw a racket into the stands, and slammed another on the floor. He dropped the match, then withdrew from the mixed doubles bronze-medal match moments later on and remaining Tokyo vacant-handed. He did not participate in all over again right up until New York.

Nevertheless, inspite of the hiccup and the monthlong split from competitors, he was the too much to handle favored to gain in New York. When it will come to majors, there is dominance, and then there is certainly Djokovic. With his Wimbledon acquire, he had taken 19 of the previous 41 Grand Slam tournaments he experienced entered. With Federer and Nadal equally absent owing to injuries, a title seemed all but particular.

Even though youthful players like Medvedev and Zverev were being regarded as threats, few considered they could defeat Djokovic in a finest-of-5-established match or with so a great deal on the line. Djokovic stated accomplishing the calendar Slam would be the greatest accomplishment of his job at the tournament’s begin and reported he was “hugely motivated and determined by that.” But he was swift to issue out that he experienced to stay in the present and get it one match at a time. Following his win in the quarterfinals, he stopped ESPN’s Patrick McEnroe from asking about it due to the fact he later on said he didn’t want to stress himself with it.

On the courtroom, Djokovic’s participate in was nowhere near flawless, and at moments, he appeared vulnerable. He required four sets in his initial-round match against 18-12 months-aged Holger Rune. He won just a person match in straight sets, in the 2nd spherical. In the semifinals, he essential a decider to defeat Zverev.

With just one get standing in between him and the milestone, he quoted Kobe Bryant and claimed the job wasn’t yet concluded. He talked about looking at Serena Williams come so near to the calendar Slam in 2015, right before shedding in the semifinals at the US Open, and how psychological she was soon after the reduction.

He recognized her suffering even additional on Sunday, and confirmed it.Novak Djokovic cried throughout a changeover in the 3rd set from Daniil Medvedev. AP Image/John Minchillo

Djokovic didn’t achieve what he had set out to complete on Sunday. But he did last but not least get a little something he experienced constantly desired: adoration and real love from the tennis globe. As the crowd showered him with an ovation just after he received his fourth straight match in the remaining established, he lifted his fist and smiled for the duration of the break. As a result of sniffles, he later explained to the group particularly what the support experienced meant to him in the course of his on-court interview forward of the trophy presentation.

“I would like to say that tonight even nevertheless I have not won the match, my coronary heart is loaded with pleasure and I am the happiest guy alive since you guys created me come to feel incredibly distinctive in the court,” he reported. “You guys touched my soul. I’ve hardly ever felt like this in New York, honestly. I enjoy you men.”

Usually criticized for his polarizing off-the-courtroom actions and views, and perceived as arrogant by other individuals, Djokovic has simply just in no way had the fanatical fandom skilled by Federer and Nadal. But this decline may have changed points. It wasn’t the calendar-12 months Grand Slam or a file-breaking major title, but Djokovic felt one thing optimistic in defeat.

“The emotion, the energy was so solid,” Djokovic stated in his postmatch news meeting. “I necessarily mean, it’s as strong as winning 21 Grand Slams. Which is how I felt, honestly. I felt really, incredibly particular.”