Why Novak Djokovic was in tears during the US Open final

World No 1 Novak Djokovic was in tears during his US Open final defeat to Daniil Medvedev which denied him a calendar-year Grand Slam

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An emotional Novak Djokovic during the US Open final trophy ceremony

Novak Djokovic was in tears during his 4-6, 4-6, 4-6 US Open final loss to Daniil Medvedev on Sunday.

The World No 1 had teared-up during the match owing to the pressure he faced at coming close to becoming the first male player since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four Grand Slams in a single year.

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“Of course, part of me is very sad. It’s a tough one to swallow, this loss, I mean, considering everything that was on the line,” Djokovic said after the match.

“But on the other hand I felt something I never felt in my life here in New York. The crowd made me (feel) very special. They pleasantly surprised me.

“The amount of support and energy and love I got from the crowd was something that I’ll remember forever. That’s the reason on the changeover I just teared up. The emotion, the energy was so strong. It’s as strong as winning 21 Grand Slams. That’s how I felt, honestly. I felt very, very special.”

Fans rooted for Djokovic

Audiences at the US Open generally tend to favour underdogs, or Djokovic’s biggest rivals – Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Since his 2019 US Open final run, Medvedev too had become a fan favourite among the New York crowd.

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In front of a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium though, which had the likes of high-profile Hollywood stars, and also Maria Sharapova watching from the stands, it was Djokovic though who received overwhelming crowd support.

It had reached such a stage that when Medvedev had his first Championship point, serving at 5-2 and 40-30 in the third set, the crowd started booing and jeering the Russian. The point was delayed as the chair umpire’s repeated calls for silence was ignored.

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It did break Medvedev’s rhythm as he committed two consecutive double faults and dropped serve.

Djokovic then held on to his serve to take the score to 5-4.

He smiled at that point and gently patted his chest to acknowledge the support. He was already in tears when Medvedev stepped up to serve for the title.

“Full credit (to) his mentality, his approach, his game, everything. He absolutely was the better player and deserved to win, no doubt about it. Of course, I’m disappointed with the overall game that I performed today. I know I could have and should have done better,” he said.

“But it’s sport. You win some, you lose some. It’s a tough loss, very tough loss. But at the same time I’m happy for him because he’s a nice guy and he deserves it. He really does.”

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“I had more hours on the court spent (than) Daniil, that’s for sure. But it was also emotionally a very demanding period for me in the last five, six months – Slams and Olympics and playing at home in Belgrade.”

Fire still burning

Aside from the 2020 French Open final, this was Djokovic’s first Grand Slam final defeat since the 2016 US Open loss to Stan Wawrinka – on the way he won eight more Majors. And he was poised to not just equal Laver’s record, but also become the first male player to win 21 singles Grand Slams as well.

“Everything was coming together for me here and kind of accumulating all the emotions that I’ve been through… Of course, I was short today for another slam title, but I have to be proud with everything that my team and I have achieved.

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“And in tennis we learn very quickly how to turn the next page. Very soon there are some more challenges, more things that are coming up. I have learned to overcome these kinds of tough losses in the finals of Slams, the ones that hurt the most… I still love this sport and I still feel good on the court. As long as there is motivation and that flare, I’ll keep riding.”

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