September 13, 2021 by archyde
The dream of Novak Djokovic crashed at 6:33 p.m. New York time. He will recover quickly, of course, but he missed a unique chance to pull off a calendar Grand Slam. On the way to making tennis history even more, he stumbled on the last step. He won twenty-seven matches this year in major tournaments. But not the most iconic. The one he called “most important game of his life perhaps, of his season certainly”.
It would be unfair to speak only of this very big mishap, without mentioning above all the winner of the 2021 edition of the US Open. The Russian Daniil Medvedev won his first Grand Slam tournament, after losing two first finals. He won 6 / 4-6 / 4-6 / 4. A fairly dry score, which reflects the excellent performance of the winner, but also the match somewhat missed by the loser.
The “big three”, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, therefore remain tied, with twenty victories each, in Grand Slam tournaments.
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Premier set: Daniil Medvedev, 6/4
Novak Djokovic drank whey, when entering the court, and during the presentation of the players. It is he whom the public has chosen to support loudly. Viewers want to experience history live.
What to completely relax the world number one? Not really. He is nervous, not yet in legs. He conceded his first serve, and he had to save two double break points a few minutes later. Daniil Medvedev wants to do better than in his sharply lost final, against the same opponent, at the Australian Open. And it won’t be difficult. He is very good, the Russian, in this first round. He is calm, he serves to perfection (eight aces), he easily wins his serves (only three points conceded), and he retains the advantage taken from the start until the end.
Djokovic decides to go on the offensive, and to go up to the net, to shorten the exchanges. He is no longer in danger. But the first set is lost. This is not an event, he had already given up the first set of his four previous matches. And that has always had the gift of galvanizing him, until now.
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Second set: Daniil Medvedev, 6/4
This time, Daniil Medvedev has been endangered. He was down 0/40 in the second game, and he faced two more break points in the fourth game. He saved them, with impressive composure, again proving he was in total control.
Novak Djokovic managed to remain unmoved since the start of the tournament. But this is too much. He has to let go of all his frustration, and a racket doesn’t survive it. He has three opponents in this final: the man in front of him, himself, and the weight of history. He’s nervous, he’s not moving well, he’s not lucid, he still can’t relax.
He does not serve enough first balls, and the penalty falls in the fifth game. He loses his serve. He won’t come back. Especially since his Russian opponent still plays very high level tennis.
The Serbian led two sets to zero in the final of a Grand Slam tournament, it has already happened this year. At Roland Garros, he was dominated by Stefanos Tsitsipas, before reversing the situation quite easily. Can he achieve the same “remount”?
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Third set: Daniil Medvedev, 6/4
Novak Djokovic seems lost on the court, physically and mentally tired. He is playing wrong, he looks very small, he has no doubt understood that there is nothing more to be done. This time, he can’t seem to step on the accelerator. And this time the opponent will not falter.
Daniil Medvedev very quickly leads four games to zero. And he holds. He plays fast, his balls are phenomenally precise.
He doesn’t last until the end, in fact. He serves at 5/2, gets a match point, and… commits two double faults. He loses his service for the first time since the start of this final. He had so far managed to hide his possible nervousness. But he finds himself in an unprecedented situation for him, winning a major tournament. And he’s shaking, he’s got the mask.
Djokovic returns to 5/4. And at the change of sides, he cries in his briefcase, when the audience applauds him. He cracks nervously. He has never looked so human this year. Medvedev has every interest in being strong, when it comes to serving again to win the tournament. Lucky for him, he had those two breaks ahead of him. He this time, he goes all the way. “Game, set, match, US Open”, Daniil Medvedev, 6 / 4-6 / 4-6 / 4.
The man “who does not celebrate his victories” collapses on the Arthur Ashe court, in an original and unexpected way (the FIFA celebration of salmon).
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