Daniil Medvedev beats Novak Djokovic in 2021 US Open men’s final – as it happened
And once again, here is the match report from today’s final:
So we’ve seen history. No, not a calendar-year slam or a record-setting 21st major. Instead, we’ve seen a historic breakthrough from one of the players who’ve been bumping into the Big Three’s wall for so long.
Tennis has surely benefited from Djokovic’s run. But the sport may also benefit from this result. It’s one thing to have a new champion after the older ones have retired. It’s another to see a charismatic younger player ascend to the top on such a big stage, fending off one of the greatest players in history along with a partisan crowd and the pressure of such an occasion.
Alasdair Murray asks via email how Medvedev’s accomplishment stands up against Radacanu’s stunner in the women’s tournament. Both wins are historic in their own right.
And I think you have to process them together as one galvanizing moment. Tennis sometimes seems so routine, with only a couple of players capable of winning. Or it can seem haphazard, with no player putting together a string of big wins to vault into the celebrity realm.
This feels like a big moment for tennis, which often has to fight for its place in a crowded sports landscape. Who won’t want to watch Medvedev or Radacanu next time? Or watch Djokovic when he tries again for No. 21? Or even an improbable return by Federer or Nadal?
Thanks for following along with us today. See you next time.
Medvedev speaks. McKendry reminds him that he said two years ago he would come back from his loss in the final and learn from it. In his response, he says he’s sorry to Novak and the fans, getting a smile from Djokovic.
He then hails his friend Djokovic as the greatest player ever.
Also, it’s his third anniversary, he says in a near-giggle. “If I lose, I need to find a present fast.”
McKendry then brings up someone from JP Morgan Chase to hand him a check for $2.5m.
While Djokovic was speaking, the Guardian recap was posted:
Djokovic speaks. Well, after a prolonged ovation that again brings a smile and some tears.
“I would like to start off by saying congratulations to Daniil. Amazing, amazing match. If there is anyone that deserves a grand slam title right now, it is you. ... I wish you many more grand slams and many more majors to follow.”
Medvedev, emotionless to this point, looks moved.
Djokovic sniffs a bit as he says he visualized himself standing here in both scenarios. “My heart is filled with joy and I’m the happiest man alive because you guys made me feel very special on the court.”
Trophy presentation with all the dignitaries and sponsors, along with legend Stan Smith.
ESPN’s Chris McKendry does the honor ... I mean, welcomes two 12-year-old Americans to carry trophies to the podium.
Tournament referee and umpire are thanked. When can we do that in youth soccer?
The next speaker congratulates Medvedev and says he’s thrilled that Medvedev won his first major in New York. He then congratulates Djokovic, who bows his head and smiles grimly. The fans roar, and that brings the tears from the 20-time major champion.
About that crowd noise ... I’m getting several tweets and emails complaining about the New York crowd. Hard to argue otherwise.
Imagine how lop-sided this might have been if the pandemic was still keeping people at home.
One narrative would be that Djokovic ran out of gas after winning three majors and going to the Olympics. But his trip to Tokyo was his only tournament since Wimbledon.
The other narrative would be that a younger player finally broke through. That would be Daniil Medvedev. Who is idly checking his phone as if waiting for test results. Someone please text him and tell him he won.
The first-time grand slam winner seems more relieved than elated. He playfully falls to the court. Back in his chair, he looks like he’s waiting in line at the dentist.
Daniil Medvedev wins the U.S. Open!
Djokovic smiles and rallies the crowd, which chants his first name before Medvedev serves.
The crowd favorite seems to have Medvedev on the run on the first point, but Djokovic finally errs. Medvedev again hangs on against the pressure, and Djokovic puts a soft shot into the net.
Medvedev has the unforced error to make it 30-15, but he hits his 38th winner for TWO championships points.
And he double-faults. This can’t be happening. 40-30.
AND IT’S NOT! Djokovic’s return goes into the net, and it’s over!
Third set: Djokovic 4-6 4-6 4-5 Medvedev* (* denotes next server)
Djokovic impressively makes Medvedev run around before taking the first point. He inexplicably skies a shot for 15-15. Medvedev hits one long in reply to a powerful Djokovic forehand for 30-15.
On Djokovic’s second serve, Medvedev rallies briefly but hits just wide. Medvedev tries the hero shot on his next return but goes well wide this time.
Medvedev will try again to serve this out.
Though so many are rooting for Djokovic, would anyone want to see him win it on a spectacular collapse?
Third set: *Djokovic 4-6 4-6 3-5 Medvedev (* denotes next server)
Djokovic breaks for the first time!
Give the crowd an assist, like it or not.
Ad-Djokovic: ANOTHER double fault, as the umpire pleads to quiet the crowd.
Deuce: Another double fault, perhaps distracted by the unruly crowd?
30-30: Djokovic forced error.
40-30: Djokovic unforced error. Championship point.
15-15: Ace. That’s No. 16.
15-30: Double fault. That’s No. 6. This is Nuke Laloosh territory.
We’re going to go point-by-point here, with Medvedev serving for the match.
Djokovic changes to white, which will make it easier to follow the rallies with the blue-shirted Medvedev.
0-15: What a winner from Djokovic.
Third set: Djokovic 4-6 4-6 2-5 Medvedev* (* denotes next server)
Yaz K hasn’t given up: “Evening (Afternoon?) From UK Beau. Cannot help but feel this is Novak just cementing his legacy by winning the last Slam in his Calendar sweep from two sets down. It just seems the way he’d want it.”
A net approach and drop shot puts Djokvic up 30-15. An error makes it 30-30, but Djokovic’s sixth ace makes it 40-30, and the next point is brief.
Medvedev now serving for his first grand slam singles title. Djokovic trying desperately to preserve his quest for his fourth this year and 21st overall.
Third set: *Djokovic 4-6 4-6 1-5 Medvedev (* denotes next server)
A little bit of luck for Medvedev. Down 15-30, his shot finds the net cord, hangs tantalizingly in the air and comes down on Djokovic’s side of the net. Djokovic ends a rally with a shot into the net, and it’s game point. His next service return goes to the same place. Djokovic will serve to stay in the match, the tournament and one specific place in history.
Third set: Djokovic 4-6 4-6 1-4 Medvedev* (* denotes next server)
Djokovic needed that. He forces three errors in four points to hold at love.
Before Thiem, the last people to win majors besides the Big Three were Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, each considerably older than the 25-year-old Medvedev.
Third set: *Djokovic 4-6 4-6 0-4 Medvedev (* denotes next server)
ESPN’s Chris Fowler says Medvedev would be the first of his generation to beat one of the Djokovic-Federer-Nadal triumvirate to win a major. Dominik Thiem won the 2020 U.S. Open but beat Zverev in the final.
Medvedev’s feat it looks a lot closer to reality after Djokovic can barely chase after any of Medvedev’s serves in a routine five-point hold.
Third set: Djokovic 4-6 4-6 0-3 Medvedev* (* denotes next server)
Medvedev breaks serve AGAIN!
To my last point, Brendan Murphy writes: “I’ve never seen Medvedev before – how come he’s not won a GS tournament yet? He’s excellent.”
Andrew Benton does not share the New York crowd’s impression of the man going for history: “Djokovic’s recent withdrawal from a mixed doubles final (was it Wimbledon?) because he had lost a singles match has made me rejoice when he smashes his racquets. Smash ‘em all, mate, hope you lose. What a horrible thing to do to the young female player who had her chance to play in a final. Let Medvedev prevail.”
You may be thinking of the Olympics, when Djokovic’s withdrawal let Nina Stojanovic miss her chance at the bronze.
Michael Meagher, though, would applaud the accomplishment: “If Djokovic wins from here ... then he’s the goat, the sheep, the rooster and the entire barnyard.
Michael wrote in before this game, in which Djokovic fired back from 15-30 with two winners to go up 40-30. It all unraveled from there. Shot at the net? Missed. Baseline? Missed.
You can’t count out Djokovic. But neither should we expect the collapse from Medvedev that Djokovic might need.
Third set: *Djokovic 4-6 4-6 0-2 Medvedev (* denotes next server)
Djokovic gets the net game working here. He faces off at close range with Medvedev and gets the better of it to make it 15-15. A drop shot propels him pull even again at 30-30. But he misses the next one to go down 40-30.
From the ridiculous to the sublime on the next point, as Djokovic’s shot might have been called wide by anything but a computer. Deuce.
Then back out of the zone with two approaches that backfire. Medvedev can cover the ground and hit the passing shot. Djokovic is running out of time to get to the drawing board.
Another reminder: This would be Medvedev’s first win in a major. He’s not playing like he hasn’t been there.
Third set: Djokovic 4-6 4-6 0-1 Medvedev* (* denotes next server)
Medvedev breaks serve!
Reminder: Djokovic was down two sets in the French Open final a few months ago. If he pulls it off again here, we’re going to run out of superlatives.
It’s not that Djokovic is playing poorly when he approaches the net. It’s just that Medvedev isn’t scared. In this game, he drills two straight shots straight at Djokovic and then hits a winner. Two unforced errors later, Djokovic is in a deeper hole.
Medvedev wins the second set
End second set: *Djokovic 4-6 4-6 Medvedev (* denotes next server)
A service winner and an ace put Medvedev up 30-0.
Then comes the shot of the match so far. Djokovic scrambles to reach a drop shot. Djokovic returns it perfectly - or so it seems, until Medvedev manages to race up the court and send the shot into open space to go up 40-0 and earn three set points.
But a double fault breaks his momentum. He fires wide during the next rally, and he takes a second to wipe his face and compose himself. His next serve is excellent, but the point seems lost when a drop shot hangs for Djokovic to dispatch down the court.
Djokovic hits wide.
The calendar-year slam is a long way away now.
Second set: Djokovic 4-6 4-5 Medvedev* (* denotes next server)
Djokovic finally makes the “drop shot-and-volley” tactic work as it did against Zverev, though he’s a bit fortunate that Medvedev’s lob attempt is weaker than it should’ve been. Medvedev lobs again at 30-30 and doesn’t miss by much. Djokovic again gets to the net at 40-30 and is able to smash his way to a crucial hold. But can he break?
Second set: *Djokovic 4-6 3-5 Medvedev (* denotes next server)
Medvedev is simply imposing his will in his service games. He’s making Djokovic scramble and setting up winners -- three straight here to hold at love. Again. Djokovic has won 11 receiving points. That’s it.
Second set: Djokovic 4-6 3-4 Medvedev* (* denotes next server)
Give the crowd credit -- they’re fans of the favorite, but they’re still applauding good tennis such as what they saw from Medvedev to make it 0-30. Djokovic rallies, literally, to 30-30 and elicits two errors for the hold.
Djokovic’s average serve speed is 103 mph to Medvedev’s 115. Big change from the semi-final slugfest.
Second set: *Djokovic 4-6 2-4 Medvedev (* denotes next server)
Brendan Murphy writes: “Djokovic looks knackered. Also, can’t understand why he doesn’t get to the net. Medvedev is way behind the baseline.”
I think the first sentence answers the second. Still, he’s trying -- the stats say he’s 13-of-18 at the net, which is better than I would’ve thought given all the errors and Medvedev winners that I can recall.
Anyway, Medvedev holds at love, and this is starting to look like the first set.
Second set: Djokovic 4-6 2-3 Medvedev* (* denotes next server)
Medvedev breaks serve!
Destroying a perfectly good racket got Djokovic a bit of crowd noise but doesn’t help him here. A double fault and two unforced errors bring up two break points. Djokovic saves the first, then races to the net on the second, but once again, the net approaches just aren’t working as they did against Zverev. Medvedev nearly places a shot near Djokovic’s feet, and the 20-time major champion can only slap it well wide.
Unless she’s had a ton of cosmetic surgery, no.
Second set: *Djokovic 4-6 2-2 Medvedev (* denotes next server)
Djokovic spends the changeover with a towel draped around his head. He gets this game to 15-15 on a point that is officially recorded as “backhand volley forced error” for Medvedev but should be called “unreturnable shot straight into Medvedev’s shoulder. Net approaches aren’t really working for either player today.
Medvedev gives one away, though, with another double fault. He outlasts Djokovic on a long-ish rally but sends an ambitious shot wide to bring up deuce. He hits wide to the other side, and Djokovic has another break point in this second set after hardly sniffing Medvedev’s serves in the first.
The crowd is getting a little overexcited. The umpire has to appeal for quiet during Medvedev’s serve.
Medvedev gives up another couple of chances and saves them in dramatic fashion. One is dropped neatly at the net, and Djokovic can’t quite return it. Another is ripped into a corner.
Medvedev finally gets game point, and that’s enough for Djokovic, who destroys his racket with several emphatic smashes.
The crowd gives him a standing ovation.
Then Medvedev wins the game.
Second set: Djokovic 4-6 2-1 Medvedev* (* denotes next server)
Not sure I’ve noted this yet, but the crowd is decidedly pro-Novak. Medvedev’s rally from 0-40 was that much more impressive, given the cheers that followed his errors.
Medvedev goes up 15-30 and then hits one he’d want back, a forehand just an inch or so wide. He now has 13 unforced errors, same as Djokovic.
After the next point, he has 17 winners to Djokovic’s 13, along with a break point.
But Djokovic, using every second of the serve clock, unleashes a wide serve that Medvedev returns somewhere into another borough of New York. Deuce. Then an ace gives Djokovic the advantage.
For the first time this match, the players start grunting. Well, grunting isn’t really the right word. What do you call it when they go “unh” and “unh”?
Djokovic drops the next point but somehow wins the next with a shot that is so close to the line that I’d really like to see a replay. He closes by forcing Medvedev into a short shot that he smashes. Medvedev returns that one, but the next is slammed so hard that it might hit Jeff Bezos’ spacecraft.
Second set: *Djokovic 4-6 1-1 Medvedev (* denotes next server)
Well, this just got interesting. An error, a double fault and another error give Djokovic as many points on Medvedev’s serve as he had in the entire first set. Medvedev responds with an ace. He then forces Djokovic to the net with a drop shot and converts the passing shot to make it 40-30. A longer rally goes Medvedev’s way, and Djokovic slams his hand and his racket into his thighs. Seems painful. Three break points saved, and it’s deuce.
An ace. Advantage Medvedev.
A service winner that Djokovic barely reaches, and the return sails long. Big save for Medvedev.
Second set: Djokovic 4-6 1-0 Medvedev* (* denotes next server)
Medvedev seems less susceptible than Zverev was to Djokovic’s net play. At 40-0, Djokovic finds himself scrambling back to deal with a Medvedev lob and is relieved to see it go just wide.
Gregory Phillips writes: “Djokovic must be the only player whose odds of winning actually shorten when he loses the first set.”
Come to think of it, did Rocky Balboa ever win the first round?
As mentioned earlier ...
Medvedev wins the first set
First set: *Djokovic 4-6 Medvedev (* denotes next server)
As the camera finds an expensively attired woman on her mobile phone, Medvedev wins the first point, then uncorks his seventh ace. He follows with his first double fault. He wins the next and closes the set with his eighth ace.
So Djokovic once again drops the first set, and it was more convincing than the 6-4 score would indicate. Medvedev was 15-for-15 on first serves and 5-for-8 on second serves. Yes, Djokovic only won three receiving points.
First set: Djokovic 4-5 Medvedev* (* denotes next server)
Djokovic is alternating brilliant shots and puzzling errors. This one gets to 30-30. On the next, Medvedev makes an impossibly solid return on a wide serve to blunt handcuff Djokovic at the net. But Djokovic’s short-armed reply gets over the net, and Medvedev’s scrambling shot does not. Djokovic closes it out from there.
First set: *Djokovic 3-5 Medvedev (* denotes next server)
For our Australian readers: Wheelchair tennis champion Dylan Alcott is honored in Arthur Ashe Stadium and marks the occasion by a dumping a beer into his trophy and chugging. Will look for video.
Oh, and Medvedev holds at love with two more aces.
First set: Djokovic 3-4 Medvedev* (* denotes next server)
We interrupt this broadcast for some shocking news. Djokovic made an error on a volley at the net.
That’s the only point he loses in a routine hold.
First set: *Djokovic 2-4 Medvedev (* denotes next server)
Sure, but the Zverev match had all its best points toward the middle of the match. The fifth set was a bit of a rout.
Anyway, Djokovic finally wins his second receiving point of match to make it 40-15. Then he impressively returns two Medvedev smashes before the third one is simply unplayable.
First set: Djokovic 2-3 Medvedev* (* denotes next server)
Djokovic also breezes through a service game to hold at love with two aces.
First set: *Djokovic 1-3 Medvedev (* denotes next server)
Vibhanshu Bisht writes: “If Djokovic wins, he will also break another record - the biggest age difference between the men’s and women’s champions at a grand slam, held by Nadal/Swiatek at 14 years and 361 days. Djokovic is 15 years and 190 years senior to Raducanu.”
I’m ill-placed to confirm this right now.
What I can confirm is that Medvedev held his serve so quickly that our dual-McEnroe commentary team barely had a chance to say anything. Ace, ace, winner, winner.
First set: Djokovic 1-2 Medvedev* (* denotes next server)
Djokovic again botches the first point. Then two straight serves clip off the net and go wide for a second double-fault of the match. Another fault follows, and Djokovic has to serve cautiously. Medvedev has an unforced error to make it 15-30, but Djokovic dunks one into the net for a double break point.
But the next serve is brilliantly place about as far wide as a ball can go and still be in play Medvedev does well to get to it, but he’s so far away (practically off-screen on the broadcast) that Djokovic has the whole court to hit the winner. Deuce.
Then an ace.
Then another ace.
Two break points saved, four straight points won with the aplomb of a 20-time major champion.
First set: *Djokovic 0-2 Medvedev (* denotes next server)
An ace on a second serve sends a bit of a message. Then Medvedev immediately follows with a second ace to go up 40-0. Djokovic gets one back but sends another one long to give Medvedev a routine hold.
First set: Djokovic 0-1 Medvedev* (* denotes next server)
Medvedev breaks serve!
Nerves? Djokovic needs a second serve on the first point but quickly forces an error to go up 15-0. Then he double-faults.
But then he finds his footing on the baseline. Medvedev tries a drop shot against the man who rattled off what seemed like dozens of drop shots against Zverev, and Djokovic gets there in plenty of time to slam it and go up 40-15.
Djokovic errs on the next point. Then Medvedev uses an array of clever shots in the longest rally of the game so far, eventually forcing Djokovic to stretch for a shot that he airballs beyond the baseline. Deuce.
Then break point! Djokovic hits just a tiny bit wide. Spike Lee is in attendance and grins as he sees the replay and holds two fingers a millimeter or so apart.
On break point itself, no camera precision is necessary, Djokovic simply misses wide by a couple of feet, and Medvedev is up.
While we wait to get going, check out this great moment from the semi-finals.
Like Zverev, Medvedev is 6-foot-6.
Brad Pitt and Bradley Cooper are sitting next to each. Maria Sharapova is there.
OK, let’s play. Djokovic to serve.
Djokovic speaks. He’ll be ready for a battle and will see how it goes.
Tennis players probably need to be focused, but just once, wouldn’t you love to see a pre-match interview in which someone talks about being inspired by Plato and Kermit the Frog or something?
We get a couple of crowd shots. Alec Baldwin is there and looks grumpy.
Medvedev speaks. He’s 100% ready. He learned from his Australian Open loss that he has to be much better. Does that mean he was only 81% ready in Australia?
We’ll be getting underway soon after this rendition of America the Beautiful ends. In other words, about an hour.
Superior song to the actual national anthem, but all such pregame singer showcases should really be limited to 90 seconds.
A classic Open ...
Hard to top the drama of the last two days in singles this year. We’ll have No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the men’s finals thanks to Djokovic subduing his nemesis Alexander Zverev.
Then we had the least predictable women’s final imaginable, with UK! UK! UK!’s Emma Raducanu coming from nowhere to win.
It’s important to note Raducanu has already done something Djokovic probably never will ...
And from Twitter:
Given Djokovic’s propensity for dropping the first set in this tournament, a four-set wins seems to be a rather sound choice.
The Open in photos ...
Serves, shadows, selfies and squirrels:
People must be excited. Mail is already coming in ...
From Paulo Biriani: “In some ways Novak is a difficult figure to love in the way that Federer and Nadal seem to be by many but, my word, it is so easy to admire what he has achieved. He is a phenomenon. Absolutely incredible, really. That Andy Murray was able to beat him a few times makes my admiration for him take a notch up or two as well. I think we’ve been spoilt by the sheer majesty of these players for the last however many years. I hope he wins and that’s without any disrespect to his talented opponent. It would just seem, well, right.”
Any other thoughts? Is Djokovic underappreciated because he sometimes agitates fans?
For what’s it’s worth, count Medvedev among Djokovic’s fans.
Thanks for joining us for the big showdown today as second-ranked Daniil Medvedev challenges top-ranked Novak Djokovic. After losing to Djokovic the first three times they played, Medvedev has won three of the last five meetings -- 2019 ATP Masters 1000 Monte Carlo, 2019 ATP Masters 1000 Cincinnati, 2020 ATP Finals. Djokovic won in straight sets in the Australian Open earlier this year.
Little bit of a difference here. Medvedev has never won a major. Djokovic, as you might have heard, is aiming for the first calendar-year grand slam since 1969 and sole possession of the record for most majors in men’s singles -- 21, which would break a tie with contemporaries Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both of whom haven’t retired but stalled.
Beau will be here shortly. In the meantime, here’s Tumaini Carayol on Novak Djokovic’s quest for the calendar slam:
After a deeply satisfied Novak Djokovic had put his racket away following another job well done on Friday night, in the post-match interview of his five-set win over Alexander Zverev the interviewer started a question by listing all of the potential achievements on the line in his final match. As soon as Djokovic understood where the question was going, he cut the question off: “I’m going for a fourth US Open, that’s all I’m thinking about,” he said, smiling.
Further prompts about Djokovic’s grand slam attempt followed: “It’s there, it’s there,” said Djokovic. “I know that people would like to hear me talk about it, but there is not much to talk about. There’s only one match left. All in, all in. Let’s do it. I’m going to put my heart and my soul and my head into that one. I’m going to treat my next match like it is the last match of my career.”
This was not the first time this happened. Djokovic was also understandably not too interested in speaking about the subject in detail after his quarter-final and he later explained that being constantly prompted about the subject leads him to think too much about it, which can “burden” him mentally. He has already said plenty.
Few champions have mastered the knack of speaking openly about their goals and then going out and achieving them, and so this underlines how uniquely difficult the grand slam is to achieve. The sporting challenge of winning all 28 matches in a year is unfathomably difficult alone, but keeping your head throughout as people constantly remind you of the magnitude of the achievement at times seems unbearable.