Djokovic: “I was just glad that finally the run is over”

  • Matt Trollope

Sitting courtside immediately after his shock straight-sets loss to Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s US Open final, Novak Djokovic admitted he felt relieved.

The world No.1 arrived in New York on the brink of achieving some stratospheric tennis milestones – the biggest being a calendar-year sweep of all four major titles.

REPORT: Medvedev stuns Djokovic to win first major title at US Open

No player had managed this since Rod Laver more than half a century earlier, and accompanying this possible feat was the fact Djokovic would have earned a 21st Grand Slam singles title, putting him ahead of principle rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

The Grand Slam became possible when Djokovic triumphed at Australian Open 2021 in February, and the discussion around it intensified when he won Roland Garros in June, and Wimbledon in July.

By the time he had won six matches in New York to arrive in the final – was there more at stake in a single match than ever before? – the pressure had become perhaps too great.

Novak Djokovic sits courtside following his straight-sets loss to Daniil Medvedev in the 2021 US Open final in New York. (Getty Images)

“(It was an) emotionally very demanding period for me in the last five, six months. Slams and Olympics and playing at home in Belgrade. Everything was coming together for me here and kind of accumulating all the emotions that I've been through,” Djokovic explained.

“The build-up for this tournament and everything that mentally, emotionally I had to deal with throughout the tournament in the last couple of weeks was just a lot. It was a lot to handle.

“I was just glad that finally the run is over.”

“(It was an) emotionally very demanding period for me in the last five, six months. Slams and Olympics and playing at home in Belgrade. Everything was coming together for me here and kind of accumulating all the emotions that I've been through,” Djokovic explained.

“The build-up for this tournament and everything that mentally, emotionally I had to deal with throughout the tournament in the last couple of weeks was just a lot. It was a lot to handle.

“I was just glad that finally the run is over.”

There was little reason to doubt Djokovic’s chances in the final, even when he dropped the opening set to a brilliant Medvedev.

It was the fifth consecutive match this tournament that Djokovic had lost the opening set, and in the four that preceded the final, he had recovered to win.

He also twice trailed opponents by two-sets-to-love at Roland Garros – Lorenzo Musetti in round four, and Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final – before prevailing in Paris.

“The build-up for this tournament and everything that mentally, emotionally I had to deal with in the last couple of weeks was ... a lot to handle."
Novak Djokovic

But in New York on Sunday, he was, for once, unable to tap into his deep well of confidence, endurance and supreme mental strength.

“I was just below par with my game. My legs were not there. I was trying. I did my best. I made a lot of unforced errors. I didn't have… no serve really,” said Djokovic, who finished the match with 38 unforced errors, outweighing 27 winners.

“It was different because my feeling on the court was not as good as the one that I had in Paris.

“Just energy-wise I felt slow.”

Djokovic acknowledged the wonderful display from Medvedev, who in his third career major final played aggressive, purposeful tennis and managed to remain focused as the vocal crowd – willing Djokovic to history – became a factor late in the third set.

That crowd support was something Djokovic said he ”never felt in my life here in New York… (it’s) something that I'll remember forever.”

The world No.1 was also pragmatic enough to recognise the enormity of his 2021 achievements.

He was already showing signs he would be able to let go of his disappointment and re-focus his attention on what he could achieve next.

“Part of me is very sad. It's a tough one to swallow, this loss, considering everything that was on the line. Unfortunately I didn't make it in the final step,” Djokovic said.

“But when you draw a line, you have to be very satisfied with the year. For the last couple of years I've been very transparent and vocal about my goals, to play my best tennis at Slams. I'm managing to do that.

“In tennis we learn very quickly how to turn the next page. I have learned to overcome these kind of tough losses in the finals of Slams, the ones that hurt the most. I'll try to draw some lessons from them, be stronger, and keep going.

“I still love this sport and I still feel good on the court. As long as there is motivation and that flair, I'll keep riding.”