By: Aaron Xiong
Heading into last Sunday undefeated in Grand Slam matches this year, Novak Djokovic was looking to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win the Calendar Slam. The 20 time Grand Slam champion was poised to win his fourth slam of the year but had one last hump to get over to achieve the impossible.
World number two Daniil Medvedev had only dropped one set on route to his second U.S Open final and was also in great form heading into the final slam of the year after winning the Toronto Masters and making a semi-final run at the Cincinnati Masters. Again posing his dominance during the summer hardcourt season, Medvedev was looking to also make history by capturing his first slam title as well as being the first Next Gen player to defeat a member of the Big 3 in a slam final.
As Sunday afternoon rolled around, the seats filled up with stars and tennis fans alike. From Leonardo DiCaprio, to Brad Pitt and Bradley Cooper sitting together, the stars showed up to witness a potential history making day. Tennis legends Rod Laver and Maria Sharapova were also among the familiar faces seen on championship Sunday.
Taking a commanding lead in the first set, Medvedev broke Djokovic’s serve in the opening game to lead 1-0. Medvedev would only lose three points on serve while serving up ace after ace to take the set 6-4. The second set was much of what fans saw in the first aside from the five early break points that Novak had a chance at during Medvedev’s opening service game. After an immense hold to even up the set at 1-1, Medvedev looked to pounce on Djokovic’s serve again. Medvedev would only require one break of serve to take a commanding lead of the match after going up two sets to none. The second set saw Medvedev land four aces to Novak’s one, as well as hitting 14 winners to Djokovic’s seven. Despite being one of the most clutch players in decisive moments, it was Medvedev who saved several break points to ultimately run away with the second set and Djokovic left his racquet biting the pavement.
The pressure was on once again for Novak Djokovic. He would have to come from behind just like he did against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the 2021 French Open final. The pressure to complete the Calendar Slam was mounting and fans could see how much of a toll it was taking on the legend. After going down 0-4 in the third, Medvedev could almost taste victory as he was just two games away from dethroning the king. However, the pressure to close out the match was something that was also starting to set in for the world number two.
Serving for the match at 5-2 in the third, Medvedev only needed one more point to win the match after earning a championship point. However, the mental fortitude that is Novak Djokovic, looked to make things interesting as he fended off championship point and instead forced a break point. After a backhand miss into the net, Medvedev relinquished serve for only the first time in the match and Novak backed up the break of serve with a solid hold to bring the match closer at 5-4.
During the changeover, fans throughout the stadium cheered Novak on as he headed towards his chair. Overcome with emotions, camera footage caught the 20 time Grand Slam champion in tears as he covered his face with a towel to hide the emotion he was feeling. However, it was clear to the crowd and viewers across the world that the world number one was feeling all of the emotions as his face was flushed and eyes slightly watery.
Earning another chance to serve for the match, Medvedev made sure the crowd knew who was top dog. Despite several fan interjections during his serve, Medvedev kept his focus and served a 129 mph serve out wide. With Djokovic’s return heading into the net, Medvedev could finally relax as he was now the 2021 U.S Open Men’s Champion. Celebrating with the signature dead fish celebration from the FIFA video games, Medvedev became the first Next Gen player to defeat a member of the Big 3 in a slam final.
In what was surely the match of his life, Medvedev played outstanding tennis only dropping his serve once throughout the whole match, serving up 16 aces in the process and teeing up 38 winners. After coming up slightly short two years ago against Rafael Nadal where he came back from two sets down to force a fifth set, the world number two was finally able to place his name amongst other U.S Open champions.