Djokovic denied calendar grand slam | Sunday Observer

Djokovic denied calendar grand slam

19 September, 2021
Daniil Medvedev the new champ with the US Open prize
Daniil Medvedev the new champ with the US Open prize

Novak Djokovic’s dream of the calendar grand slam came to grief as he finally lost to a member of the so-called NextGen.

And yet, Djokovic’s demeanour and tennis were so uncharacteristic that it felt more like an aberration than that long-awaited “changing of the guard”.

Was Djokovic feeling the after-effects of playing five more sets than Daniil Medvedev on the way to this final? Was he hag-ridden by his own desperate desire to equal Rod Laver’s 1969 record of monopolising all four majors in a season?

The answer may lie somewhere in the middle, but Djokovic became tearful at the final change of ends before his 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 defeat reached its finish. He wept into his towel, even as the same New York fans who have so often scorned him tried to exhort him to raise his game.

While all this emotional drama was unfolding, Medvedev experienced a loss of nerve on his first attempt to serve the match out. He held a first match point at 5-2, 40-30 in the third set. Two double-faults and a horrid unforced error and he was suddenly receiving serve again.

A second match point came and went with another double-fault before Medvedev finally concluded this extraordinary tournament with one more unreturnable serve. He had struck 16 aces and suffered only a single break. So it was that Medvedev opened his grand-slam account after his third final at this level. It was a different story to his capitulation against Djokovic in the Australian Open final, seven months ago.

This was not a top-class final, thanks mainly to Djokovic’s lack of engagement. At two sets down – the same situation he had found himself in against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final of Roland-Garros – one might have expected him to take one of those bathroom breaks that we have been talking about of late.

He did exactly that against Tsitsipas, remember, and reversed the momentum of the match. This time, though, there was a fatalism to Djokovic’s demeanour. His lassitude was so great that one had to assume that he had emptied his tank while beating Alexander Zverev in a five-set thriller on Friday night.

The one moment when Djokovic did fire up was in the middle of the second set, as he tried to fight back from an early break. He could not make his legs move as he wanted, and at one point he nearly thrashed a loose ball away wildly in frustration – only to hold himself back just before he risked a repeat of last year’s disqualification.

His self-restraint might have kicked in on that occasion, but a few moments later he laid into his racket with more enthusiasm than he showed for any of his shot-making, thrashing it three times into the court surface. Rather than stabilising in the third set, Djokovic soon found himself 4-0 down as the crowd sat in stunned silence.

There are many tennis-lovers around the world who would have been praying for this result, as it leaves the overall grand-slam chart tied. Each member of the so-called “Big Three” still has 20 majors to their name, which is how fans of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will be praying for things to stay.

Djokovic is still the greatest player the game has seen, whatever happens next. But the accumulation of effort – both mental and physical – over this long season looked to have left him as an empty vessel. He has been driving himself on to this moment for so long, sailing against the headwinds of fan apathy in many stadiums around the world.

After sealing the win, Medvedev gave a peculiar little sideways hop and lay down on his left side with his tongue hanging out. He later revealed that this bizarre display had been inspired by a celebration used in the Fifa video game. That’s what you get when the kids start taking over. (The telegraph)

Novak Djokovic