Novak Djokovic’s quest for a calendar-year Grand Slam came to an end Sunday, as he faltered in the U.S. Open finals. In a rematch of this year’s Australian Open final, the top ranked men’s tennis player was defeated by Daniil Medvedev, shockingly losing in straight sets by a score of 6-4 6-4 6-4.
Djokovic had already claimed titles at the Australian Open, Roland-Garros and Wimbledon this year. Adding a win at the U.S. Open — the fourth and final major of the tennis season — would have given the 34-year-old the coveted calendar-year Grand Slam, a feat that has not been accomplished since Steffi Graf did it in 1988. The last man to win the calendar-year Grand Slam was Australian legend Rod Laver, who managed to do it twice in his storied career in 1962 and in 1969.
Djokovic did not get his first break of the match until the third set, when Medvedev was serving for the match at 5-2. But the Russian double faulted on championship point and then again at deuce to give Djokovic the advantage. He then buried an unforced error into the net, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Djokovic followed with a hold, but Medvedev closed things out in his next service game.
This is Medvedev’s first major title. The 25-year-old had previously made it to two other major final matches: his loss to Djokovic earlier this year in Melbourne, and the 2019 U.S. Open finals, which he lost to Rafael Nadal after nearly coming back from a two sets to love deficit.
Djokovic was noticeably emotional after the match, burying his face in a towel and appearing to cry before the trophy ceremony. He continued to shed tears throughout the ceremony as he congratulated his opponent.
“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.” Djokovic told the crowd. “You guys touched my soul. I’ve never felt like this in New York, honestly, I’ve never felt like this. I love you guys. Thank you so much for your support and everything you have done tonight for me. I love you, and I’ll see you soon.”
Medvedev began his remarks by apologizing to both the fans and Djokovic for denying them the opportunity of seeing and winning the Grand Slam. He then told Djokovic that he considers him the greatest tennis player ever.
“Simply stunning Daniil Medvedev, you stopped one of the greatest tonight,” Laver tweeted after the match. “To win your first Grand Slam title is always special, to do it against a champion like Novak Djokovic is something else. Take heart Novak, the quest continues. Best wishes.”
Sunday’s loss also put Djokovic’s bid to become the sole leader in the men’s singles major titles race on hold. He remains tied with Roger Federer and Nadal at 20. Neither Nadal or Federer competed at this year’s U.S. Open due to injury.
Djokovic had previously hoped to attain the even-rarer feat of pulling off the Golden Slam, a win in all four majors plus an Olympic gold medal in the same year. But the Serb was defeated by eventual gold medal winner Alexander Zverev in Tokyo, then stunningly failed to even medal, losing in the bronze medal match to Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain.