How the 2015 Australian Open may have an impact on the season of some of the top stars - UBITENNIS
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How the 2015 Australian Open may have an impact on the season of some of the top stars

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TENNIS – The 2015 Australian Open crowned Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams after two weeks of exciting tennis, upsets and memorable matches at Melbourne Park. Djokovic won his fifth Australian Open title and his eighth overall win in a Major equalling Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and André Agassi. Williams has become the second best player in history with 19 Majors behind Steffi Graf. The Australian Open may have an impact on the season of some of the top stars. Diego Sampaolo

 

Novak Djokovic confirmed his status as the King of Melbourne winning this title for the fifth time. Melbourne Park is becoming the backyard of Djokovic in the same way as the Roland Garros for Nadal and Wimbledon’s All England Club for Federer.

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

Djokovic’s next goal will be to win the Roland Garros for the first time in his career and complete the Career Grand Slam with the only Trophy missing from his cabinet. A triumph in the French capital could raise his hopes to complete the calendar year-Grand Slam.This is a hard but not impossible goal for Nole who came close to this achievement in 2011 when he triumphed in the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open losing an epic semifinal against Federer

Only Don Budge, the first player to win the four singles Majors in the same year was Don Budge in 1938, and Rod Laver, who accomplished this feat in 1962 and 1969, accomplished this feat in the history of men’s tennis. Three women won the four Slams in the same year: Maureen Connolly (1963), Margaret Court (1970) and Steffi Graf (who achieved the Golden Grand Slam with the Olympic Gold in Seul 1988). This is enough to say how tough the achievement is for Djokovic especially in modern tennis.

The First Grand Slam of the year also produced some major changes to the ATP Ranking. These changes could have a major impact on future seeds and draws for the next tournaments. The most significant changes regard two top-10 player Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka.

Andy Murray and Amelie Mauresmo

Andy Murray and Amelie Mauresmo

The first change to the Ranking is the return of the Fab 4 after the return of Murray to the fourth place behind Djokovic, Federer and Nadal after finishing runner-up to Djokovic in the Australian Open final on Sunday. The Dunblane native, who fell out of the top-4 after losing in the quarter final last year in Melbourne and ended the 2014 season in sixth place in the Ranking after a difficult year marred by injury problems which he managed to rescue thanks to a strong finish to the year in which he collected three titles in Shenzhen, Vienna and Valencia. Murray had a strong return to form Down Under with wins against Grigor Dimitrov, Nick Kyrgios and Tomas Berdych before keeping pace with Djokovic in the first two sets of the final which ended with tie-breaks. Murray broke serve at the start of the second set but from then on he started faltering and dropped 12 out of the last 13 games. Murray will have to improve his game especially after the final in which he hit 41 winners but 49 unforced errors.

Apart from the rise to the fourth place the Australian Open final was an important confidence-booster for Murray for the next months in which he will be bidding to his third Grand Slam title after the 2012 US Open and his triumph at Wimbledon in 2013. He will have to defend important points at the Roland Garros where he reached the semifinal last year. He reached the quarter final last year at Wimbledon and at the US Open where he will have his best chances to lift another Grand Slam Trophy.

Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka

Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka

The other major impact on the Ranking regards Stan Wawrinka who reached the semifinal Down Under after another solid tournament in which he beat Kei Nishikori in the quarter final but he could not defend his title points this year and dropped five places to Number 9 in the ATP Ranking after losing the semifinal against eventual champion Nole Djokovic. This means that he will face the risk to meet tough rivals in early rounds of the next Master 1000 Tournaments. He will also have to defend the title points in Monte-Carlo, although early exits last year in Madrid, Rome and the Roland Garros mean that he will have the chance to collect a lot of points since May.

The other major impact on the Rankings was produced by young Aussie Rising star Nick Kyrgios who rose to a career high Number 35 after reaching his second Grand Slam quarter final after last year’s Wimbledon. He has become the first teenager to reach two Grand Slam quarter final since Roger Federer in 2001

Kyrgios, who beat Federer’s conqueror Andreas Seppi before losing to Murray in the quarter final, has the potential to become the next star of the circuit and the great achievement in the Happy Slam could raise his confidence ahead of Wimbledon where he will try to improve his result of last year.

Kei Nishikori

Kei Nishikori

Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov reached at least the semifinal stage in Grand Slam tournaments in 2014 and are expected to follow in the footsteps of Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic as first-time Grand Slam champions in 2015. These three stars were not ready to lift their first Major Trophy in Melbourne but upsets are behind the corner especially at Grand Slam level. Among the reasons, which explain how the challenge faced by Raonic, Nishikori and Dimitrov is, there are the return to the top of Andy Murray, and the consistent tournament of Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych.

Raonic has moved up to his career high position of World Number 6 after reaching the quarter final for the first time at the Australian Open. However, the young Canadian showed that he cannot rely only on his big serve if he wants to have a serious chance to beat the Fab 4 in Grand Slams, as it happened in the Melbourne quarter final match where his best weapon was not enough to prevail against Djokovic.

Raonic, who will have to defend his semifinal points at Wimbledon after reaching this stage of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his career, is just 360 points behind fifth ranked Kei Nishikori, who reached the quarter final in Melbourne.

The Japanese player, Grand Slam finalist for the first time last September at the US Open, beat David Ferrer but lost against Wawrinka who played his best match of the tournament in the quarter final against the Japanese player. By reaching the quarter final Nishikori equalled the same result achieved in 2012. The player coached by Michael Chang won just six of his 25 head-to-head matches against the top-10 but prevailed only twice in Grand Slams against Wawrinka in the quarter final and Djokovic in the semifinal at the 2014 US Open.

In comparison to Nishikori, Raonic won just five of his 27 head-to-head matches against top-10 players but has a 4-2 win-loss record against Murray. The Canadian has the potential to reach again the semifinal in Grand Slam tournaments in the near future.

Dimitrov reached the semifinal at Wimbledon last year but in the other Slams he was quarter finalist only at the Australian Open in 2013 and 2015. This year he faced a very tough task when he was beaten by Murray who was looking to take a re-match after losing last year at Wimbledon. Dimitrov won just four of 19 head-to head matches against the top-10 but has the talent to equal the semifinal achieved last year at Wimbledon.

Tomas Berdych

Tomas Berdych

Tomas Berdych performed well at the start of this year reaching the final in Doha and the semifinal in Melbourne. His Australian Open campaign was highlighted by his win over Rafa Nadal in the quarter final where the Czech player broke his 17-match losing streak against his Spanish rival. His run ended with the defeat against Murray in the semifinal but he showed consistency during the tournament reaching the semifinal for the second consecutive year. Much credit goes to his new coach Dani Vallverdu. Reaching the second Grand Slam final after Wimbledon in 2010 could be a realistic goal for Berdych in the next tournaments if he keeps the consistency.

Roger Federer suffered a major disappointment as he was knocked out by Andreas Seppi in the third round but he has still the chance to bounce back and add another Grand Slam to his impressive collection especially in his favourite Slam at Wimbledon where he won seven times and played a epic final against Djokovic. Winning the 18th Slam title could be the major goal for the final part of his legendary career- It remains to be seen how the Swiss Maestro will plan the rest of the season after the Australian Open especially in spring, if he will drop some tournaments from his calendar and if he plays in the Davis Cup first round against Belgium next March.

Rafa Nadal showed once again his ability to win very hard battles but he is vulnerable to injuries which are taking a heavy toll on his career. He will chase a lot of titles on his favourite clay surface next spring in the tournaments, where he did not perform at the same level as in the past years, before defending his title points at the Roland Garros. After Paris he will not have much to defend for the rest of the year, because he played sparingly in the second half of 2014 because of injury and physical problems.

Women:

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

Serena Williams celebrated her 19th title to move up into second place in the all-time list of winners of Grand Slam titles behind Steffi Graf who won 22 Major titles. Williams can dream to win more Grand Slam crowns and close the gap on the German legend if she keeps her form.

Serena has been at the top of the Ranking for a total of 226 weeks and is closing the gap on Chris Evert who was first for 260 weeks and is still ranked third in the all-time ranking of players who stayed at the top for more weeks behind Steffi Graf (377 weeks) and Martina Navratilova (332 weeks).

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova

Runner-up Maria Sharapova lost her 17th consecutive match since 2004 against Serena but she fought hard in the second set and can look to the next tournaments with a renewed confidence especially during the spring clay season where she will have to defend the title points in Madrid, Stuttgart and the Roland Garros. Maria, who started her season with a title in Brisbane against Ana Ivanovic, showed once again the ability to fight hard until the end especially when she saved two match points against Alexandra Panova in the second round. Last year she won a hard final match against Simona Halep in Paris and she will certainly take advantage of this ability to fight hard until the last point in long and tough matches during the European clay season.

Sharapova has learned to move effectively on the clay surface, which was considered as one of her worst surface. She won two of her six Grand Slam titles in 2012 and 2014 in Paris and finished runner-up in 2013.

Madison Keys

Madison Keys

The major surprise of this year’s Australian Open Madison Keys could produce a major impact in the circuit after reaching the semifinals. The US teenager has reached the top-20 for the first time in his career after starting the tournament in 35th place in the WTA Ranking and is the youngest player in the top-20. Keys upset her childhood idol Venus Williams in the quarter final before losing against Serena in the semifinals. If Keys keeps this level, she could reach have the potential to reach the top-10 in the coming months and become the new star of the future. Keys could follow in the footsteps of Eugenie Bouchard, who start the 2014 season with a semifinal in Melbourne and went on to reach another Grand Slam semifinal at the Roland Garros before qualifying for the final at Wimbledon. The young Canadian did not confirm the semifinal of last year but she played a good tournament losing to Sharapova in the quarter final.

The other semifinalist Ekaterina Makarova confirmed her excellent level on the Grand Slam stage reaching her second consecutive semifinal after the US Open. She also reached the quarter final at Wimbledon last year. The Russian player crushed Simona Halep 6-4 6-0 in the quarter final before losing to Sharapova in the semifinal showing her potential to raise her game on the bigger stage. Thanks to her consistency Makarova has moved up to ninth place in the WTA Ranking and has the potential to reach her first Major final in the coming three tournaments.

Venus Williams

Venus Williams

Serena’s older sister Venus made a surprising start to her season winning in Auckland and reaching the quarter final in Melbourne. Venus beat Agnieszka Radwanska to reach the quarter final in a Grand Slam for the first time since 2010. She was beaten by Madison Keys in a clash between two different generations. Venus moved up seven position from 18th to 11th place in the WTA Ranking and cannot be written off in the coming tournaments if she is fit. Considering her illness which affected her in her recent years it’s a great achievement for the US legend.

Two players who suffered defeats in the early rounds were Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Kvitova but they faced tough players. Wozniacki lost to Vika Azarenka in the second round, while Kvitova was knocked out by Keys in the third round. Both players will have the chance to bounce back in the coming months. Last year they also did not start well but they raised their level in the second half of the season. Kvitova lost in the first round in Melbourne in 2014 but she finished strongly winning her second title at Wimbledon, New Haven and Wuhan. Wozniacki lost in the third round in Melbourne and fell in the first round in Paris but she enjoyed a second half winning a title at Istanbul and reaching the final at the US Open and Tokyo and the semifinal in Eastbourne, Cincinnati, Wuhan and in the WTA Championships in Singapore.

Cictoria Azarenka

Cictoria Azarenka

Vika Azarenka made a successful come-back with her her spectacular second round win over Wozniacki after starting the tournament as unseeded in 44th place in the WTA Ranking. She dropped to World Number 49, but her win over Wozniacki could be a confidence-booster for Azarenka who will try to improve her ranking in the coming tournaments.

Halep could not handle the pressure of high expectations and faltered in the second set against Makarova losing with a bagel. The young Romanian will have to defend a lot of points during the spring clay season where she will try to defend the final reached last year in Paris.

Agnieszka Radwanska was beaten by Venus Williams and dropped to eighth place, her lowest ranking since 2012.

Last year’s Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova lost eight positions in the Ranking dropping to 18th but she showed encouraging progress reaching the quarter final in her favourite tournament.

Italian Camila Giorgi enjoyed a solid tournament reaching the third round where she came close to upsetting Venus Williams. She improved her ranking by two positions to Number 31.

Ana Ivanovic

Ana Ivanovic

The major disappointment of this year’s tournament Down Under was Ana Ivanovic who did not advance the first round. The Serbian enjoyed a consistent 2014 season winning four titles in Auckland, Monterrey, Birmingham and Tokyo but reached her only Grand Slam quarter final in the Australian Open. She will have to raise her game if she wants to improve her record in Grand Slam tournaments. She will have to defend her final points of last year in Stuttgart and the semifinal points in Rome.

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ATP To Make Changes To Toilet Break And Medical Time-Out Rules Ahead Of 2022 Season

Rule changes on toilet breaks and medical time-outs are set to be implemented before the start of the 2022 season.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas (@ToiSports - Twitter)

The ATP are set to make changes to the rules around toilet breaks and medical time-outs ahead of the 2022 season.

 

The issue of toilet breaks and medical time-outs has been long a discussion in tennis with players often accused of using the lenient rule concerning these two topics to gain an advantage using gamesmanship.

More recently this issue has flared up with Stefanos Tsitsipas accused of using eight minute toilet breaks to take the momentum away from his opponent just like he did against Andy Murray at the US Open.

The Greek has often denied that he has done it for those reasons and says he has not broken any rules.

However that might be about to change as an ATP source has told Reuters that there are discussions to change these rules next year, “There will be a change to the rules for bathroom breaks and on-court medical timeouts as well,” an ATP source told Reuters.

“I hope that before the next season begins in January, we will have a stricter rule when it comes to toilet breaks and medical timeouts. I think it’s getting to the point where it’s definitely becoming a big issue. It’s been an issue for a long time but we are taking quite a serious approach now to try and change it.”

Players such as Sloane Stephens and Alexander Zverev have also spoken out against the gamesmanship surrounding toilet breaks and medical time-outs.

Although Tsitsipas did get some support from world number one Novak Djokovic who doesn’t believe the Greek deserved the criticism that he got, “I’ve got to stand for Stefanos Tsitsipas,” Djokovic told reporters at the US Open.

“I don’t think he’s doing anything wrong. I support him. The rule is not clear. Of course you can argue it’s all relative, everyone sees it differently. This was a hot topic last couple of weeks. I think he didn’t deserve that much attacks that he was getting in the media from everyone.”

Changes are hoping to be made before the Australian Open in January which starts on the 17th of January.

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Emma Raducanu’s Social Media Fame Continues To Rise After US Open Victory

Emma Raducanu’s stock keeps rising after winning the US Open on Sunday.

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Emma Raducanu (@CincyTennis - Twitter)

New research has confirmed that Emma Raducanu’s rise in social media followers has increased following her maiden grand slam victory on New York.

 

The British qualifier completed the impossible on Sunday as she defeated Raducanu 6-4 6-3 to win her first grand slam title at the US Open.

In her second pro tour event the Brit outclassed the Canadian as she won all 20 sets over three weeks to complete a dream tournament.

As a result Raducanu’s ranking has risen from 150 in the world to 23 in the world.

However it’s not her ranking that has risen, it’s her social media numbers that have also increased research has shown.

Now the focus is on the 18 year-old having done a media round-up over in the states and last night she attended the Met Gala. This means more attention is on her than ever before which has translated into her Instagram.

Data collected by LoveUX Agency has shown that Raducanu gained over 1.2 million new followers on Instagram since her US Open victory.

It also shows that Emma is now the 5th most followed WTA player on Instagram, her post of her US Open victory has more comments that Naomi Osaka’s Australian Open victory and there were more headlines written about her than there were Novak Djokovic.

Here are a couple of graphics that was provided by LoveUX Agency CEO Matt Seabridge:

As Raducanu’s fame continues she will need to deal with this new-sought fame as her life has now changed forever.

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US Open, Medvedev Finds His Spot among the Greats, but Djokovic Is Not Done Winning Yet

The Russian can become a threat on every surface. The world N.1 couldn’t find his best game to clinch the Grand Slam, but won over the crowd like never before

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The cognoscenti of tennis have been waiting for a couple of years for Daniil Medvedev to place his name among the game’s elite performers as a champion at a Grand Slam event. Medvedev has been on the verge of this accomplishment for quite some time. Through the summer of 2019 and on into the fall, he made immense strides as a player of the front rank. In that span, he made it to the final of all six tournaments he played. Most importantly, he moved agonizingly close to establishing himself as the U.S. Open champion. Confronting none other than Rafael Nadal, Medvedev was down two sets to love and trailing by a service break in the third set but, stupendously, he nearly won that match and claimed that title.

 

Medvedev pushed Nadal into a harrowing five setter that stretched from late afternoon well into the evening. He even battled back from two breaks down in the fifth set and saved two match points before Nadal held on from 30-40 in the last game of a compelling contest to win 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4. Medvedev had concluded 2018 stationed at No. 16 in the world but his stirring surge in 2019 enabled this estimable individual to reach No. 5.

The 6’6” Russian continued along his ascendant path in a stellar 2020 campaign. He made another spirited run at the U.S. Open crown, sweeping into the semifinals without the loss of a set before losing to an inspired Dominic Thiem. Undismayed by that setback, Medvedev was invincible at the end of 2020, capturing back-to-back titles as the Masters 1000 event in Paris and the year-end ATP Finals at London, where he went undefeated in the round robin event. Moreover, he ousted the top three seeds in that tournament—Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem—and that was an unprecedented feat.

In that spectacular span of two tournaments and ten match victories in a row, Medvedev accounted for no fewer than seven wins over top ten players. By the time Medvedev reached his second Grand Slam tournament final at the start of this season, he had raised his total to 20 matches in a row. Many authorities believed Medvedev would make his breakthrough on that Melbourne stage and take his place as a major champion, thus underlining his authenticity.

But Djokovic denied Medvedev that prestigious prize, playing a masterful strategic match and executing it to the hilt, winning a ninth Australian Open with a comprehensive 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 triumph.

That setback took more than a little wind out of Medvedev’s sails. He did make some amends that could be construed as positive steps. Arriving at Roland Garros with a career match record of 0-4, Medvedev found some confidence on the red clay and went to the quarterfinals but, much to his chagrin, he was soundly beaten by Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals of the French Open. Medvedev had toppled Tsitsipas in six of the seven head-to-head battles they had fought up until Roland Garros, so that setback had to be stinging.

On to Wimbledon went Medvedev, and once more he reached the fourth round of a Major. But he let a two-sets-to-one lead against Hubert Hurkacz still from his grasp in a two day meeting, falling in five sets. And yet, Medvedev did recover his form over the summer when he won the Masters 1000 title in Canada.

And so he came into the U.S. Open as the No. 2 seed, quietly confident and cautiously optimistic, a man on a mission. Medvedev took advantage of a favorable draw. He did not drop a set prior to the quarterfinals, but did struggle slightly against the Dutch qualifier Botic Van de Zandschulp before winning 7-5 in the fourth set. But then he took apart No. 12 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime in straight sets.

That win over the athletic Canadian took Medvedev into his third major final and his second in New York. To most avid tennis observers, it was a fitting way to settle the outcome of the last major in 2021 when it all came down to Medvedev against a man on an ineffable historical quest named Novak Djokovic.

The world No. 1 was coping with the kind of pressure that only a fellow of his extraordinary stature could possibly understand. Once he had captured his second French Open in June to put himself half-way to a Grand Slam, Djokovic had his mind fixated on that lofty goal. He went to Wimbledon not simply to win the world’s premier tennis tournament but to garner a third major in a row and go to New York in search of the last piece in the puzzle. No one in men’s tennis since Rod Laver secured his second Grand Slam in 1969 had taken the first three majors of the season to land in such lofty territory—one tournament away from a Grand Slam.

Surely Djokovic was informed by media figures and fellow players that only five players had ever taken all four major tournaments in a single year to win the Grand Slam. The first time it was done was in 1938, when the Californian Don Budge—owner of perhaps the best backhand tennis has ever witnessed—pulled off the remarkable feat. Maureen Connolly was next on the list in 1953, succeeding largely because her ground strokes were the best in the women’s game and her footwork was exemplary. The left-handed Laver—an incomparable Australian shotmaker— took his first Grand Slam in 1962 as an amateur and his second as a professional seven years later.

Next up was another Australian stalwart. Margaret Smith Court—a magnificent attacking player— realized her dream of the Grand Slam in 1970. Eighteen years later, it was Steffi Graf’s turn. The German with fast feet and explosive forehand was unbeatable at the Grand Slam tournaments in 1988.

So there you have it. No one since Graf has won the Grand Slam, proof of what a difficult task it is for both the men and the women. Keep in mind as well that some of the sport’s most luminous figures have never come close. To be sure, Roger Federer celebrated three seasons (2004, 2006 and 2007) when he was victorious at three of the four majors, but he never made it even half-way to a Grand Slam because he was unable to come through at Roland Garros in those years. The one year he won the French Open (2009) he had already lost to Nadal in the Australian Open final.

Nadal won the last three majors of 2010 in Paris, London and New York but he had been beaten at the Australian Open in the first one. The only time Nadal won the Australian Open in 2009, he suffered his first loss at Roland Garros against Robin Soderling and the Grand Slam chance was gone. Djokovic himself managed to sweep four majors in a row from Wimbledon of 2015 through Roland Garros of 2016. That meant he was actually half-way to a Grand Slam in 2016 but he lost in the third round of Wimbledon to Sam Querrey so that opportunity evaporated.

Meanwhile, a small cast of players has won the first three majors of the year to stand within striking distance of a Grand Slam. The first one was Jack Crawford of Australia in 1933. He took the first three and then was in the final of Forest Hills at the U.S. Championships. He was only one set away from the Grand Slam but lost to the gifted Englishman Fred Perry. Similarly, the Australian dynamo Lew Hoad was also one match away from a Grand Slam in 1956 but his countryman Ken Rosewall knocked off Hoad in the Forest Hills final. And then in 1984, Martina Navratilova was the champion at the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. At that time the Australian Open was the last major fo the season, and Navratilova was beaten in Melbourne by Helena Sukova in the semifinals.

And so Djokovic was surrounded by all of these historical facts as he came to the U.S. Open this year. The 34-year-old was seeking to establish himself as the oldest player ever to win a Grand Slam, and he navigated his draw well across an arduous fortnight in New York. At the U.S. Open, his anxiety was evident all the way through the tournament but time and again Djokovic overcome his difficulties and raised his game when he needed to.

In the first round he went into a tailspin in the second set against Danish qualifier Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune but romped in the end 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-1 as the teenager suffered with cramps. The Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor faced Djokovic in the second round and the top seed granted his adversary only seven games across three sets. 2014 U.S Open finalist Kei Nishikori took the first set from Djokovic before the Serbian beat him for the 17th time in a row 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. In the round of 16, the young American wildcard Jack Brooksby came out with deep intensity and Djokovic was unsettled, but the 34-year-old found his range in the second set and never lost it, winning 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

Now in the quarterfinals Djokovic was pitted against the No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini. The flamboyant Italian had lost to Djokovic in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros and again in the final at Wimbledon. Now Djokovic prevailed for the third time in a row against the big server 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.

So the stage was set for Djokovic to play No. 4 seed Sascha Zverev, who was on a rampage. Zverev had won 16 matches in a row heading into his appointment with Djokovic, taking the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo and then winning the Masters 1000 tournament in Cincinnati. In Tokyo, Zverev rallied from a set and a break down at 6-1, 3-2 but swept eight games in a row and ten of the last eleven to win 1-6, 6-3, 6-1.

But in New York, Djokovic played his best match of the tournament, turning the tables on the German. Djokovic rallied ferociously again to gain a pulsating five set triumph over Zverev 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in three hours and 34 minutes. In the fifth set of that scintillating encounter under the lights, Djokovic collected 24 of 30 points to open up a 5-0 lead. Although Zverev pridefully won the next two games, Djokovic finished it off with a third service break of the set in the eighth game.

Many of us expected Djokovic to repeat his Australian Open final round win over Medvedev in New York. No one was taking Medvedev lightly or assuming he would not put up the toughest possible fight. But Djokovic’s big match prowess and his vast experience on the premier stages was paramount in the minds of many experts. This was, after all, his 31st Major final, a record number he shares with Federer. Moreover, Djokovic has grown immeasurably across the years as a player who knows how to bring out his best on the biggest occasions.

He had won 12 of his previous 14 finals at the Grand Slam events heading into this U.S. Open.  Djokovic’s record was once 6-7 in the middle of 2014, but he then won 14 of 17 to put him at 20-10 in his career leading up to Flushing Meadows. That success rate made him the favorite at the Open to win a record 21st Major crown as well as realizing the most demanding goal of his career—a Grand Slam sweep of all four majors.

But it was apparent from the outset of his duel with the 25-year-old Russian that Djokovic was nowhere near the level he needed to be physically, mentally or emotionally. The first ominous sign was in the opening game of the match. Djokovic led 40-15 but he was coaxed into four consecutive errors and thus lost his serve immediately. Medvedev was clearly buoyed by that beginning, holding his serve at 15 for 2-0 with two aces. Djokovic then fell into a 15-40 hole by making his eighth unforced error of the young match. Although he won four points in a row and finished off that third game with two aces, Djokovic had not commenced this contest with the standard he needed to meet the moment.

Medvedev required only 47 seconds to hold for 3-1 by virtue of two aces, a service winner and a forehand winner. In his next three service games, Medvedev conceded only two points. Djokovic was not reading that serve at all and was slow to react whenever he did. Medvedev captured that set confidently, 6-4.

It was early in the second set that Djokovic found some openings that might have altered the course of the match had he exploited them. He reached 0-40 on the Medvedev serve but steered a forehand retrieve of a drop shot and was passed down the line off the forehand by the Russian. Medvedev released an ace for 30-40 and then Djokovic botched a backhand slice, sending that shot into the net. He was infuriated. Medvedev held on crucially for 1-1 with an ace followed by a service winner.

Djokovic saved a break point on his way to a 2-1 lead and then had two more break points in the fourth game, but Medvedev produced a low forehand drop volley that drew an errant forehand pass from the Serbian, and then saved the second break point with a backhand down the line deep into the corner that Djokovic could not answer. Medvedev made it to 2-2, broke Djokovic in the fifth game as the top seed put only one of six first serves in play, and then the Russian conceded only two points in his last three service games to wrap up the set 6-4.

Djokovic was clearly despondent. He was not simply below par as he would say later; he was way off his game in every respect. Medvedev rolled to 4-0 in the third and soon moved to 5-1. The capacity crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium was filled with Djokovic fans cheering him on vociferously, but they had little to shout about for most of the proceedings. Djokovic held on in the seventh game. Medvedev had a match point at 5-2 but served a double fault at 120 MPH into the net as the crowd callously applauded his mistake. He then served another double fault and Djokovic went on to break. When Djokovic held easily in the ninth game, the crowd’s applause for a man they had seldom supported was astonishing and much appreciated by the world’s best tennis player.

Djokovic shed tears into his towel at the changeover. Medvedev then served for the match a second time and released another double fault at 40-15. No one knew it then, but the Russian was fighting cramps, a fact he hid awfully well from his opponent and the audience. At 40-30 his first serve was good enough to force Djokovic to miss the return, and so Medvedev averted a potential crisis to defeat his rival for the fourth time in nine career clashes 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

Medvedev had handled the occasion remarkably well and had tuned out the crowd with great discipline. For Djokovic the situation must have been both maddening and saddening. To have an audience so fervently behind him at one of the Majors is something he has rarely if ever experienced. But he struggled inordinately to find anything even resembling his best tennis. He approached the net 47 times in the three sets and won 31 of those points. He played serve-and-volley surprisingly well, taking advantage of Medvedev’s court positioning so far behind the baseline for his returns.

But Djokovic had neither the patience, the physicality or the inclination to stay back and grind with Medvedev the way he always has done. His legs were too weary, and his mind was cluttered. In the end he played into Medvedev’s hands. The Russian is among the most astute players in the sport to read the map of a match and adjust his strategy. Medvedevs’ shot selection, variation of speed and pace, and capacity to make Djokovic uncomfortable were first rate. Medvedev knew full well he was not playing the essential Djokovic, but he was performing in front of an antagonistic crowd and trying to pull off a first Major title. Those were not easy circumstances but Medvedev was able to deal with it ably. Medvedev did everything that was asked of him and more. He was thoroughly professional.

When it was over, Djokovic was very gracious and unwilling to drown himself in a sea of self pity. He lauded Medvedev and refused to make any excuses for his sixth defeat in nine U.S. Open finals against five different opponents.

There will never be another opportunity like this for Djokovic. He admirably put himself three sets away from the first men’s Grand Slam in 52 years. That can hardly be portrayed as a failure. Losing in New York will only make Djokovic more motivated for 2021 and the pursuit of a 21st Major title in Melbourne that would enable him to stand alone at the top of the list for most men’s majors and separate him from his co-leaders Federer and Nadal. He will turn 35 in May but Djokovic remains very young for his age. To be sure, he looked much older against Medvedev, but that was circumstantial. He has a lot of winning left to do.

As for Medvedev, this triumph at the U.S. Open should lead to many more landmark victories. Over the next seven years, he should be good for at least five or six more majors, and perhaps a larger number than that. The key to where he ends up will depend to a large extent on his adaptability. Medvedev has proven irrefutably that he is a prodigious hardcourt player and that will put him in good stead at both Melbourne and New York year after year. But can he demonstrate a larger self-belief on grass and clay courts?

To be sure, he did well this year with his quarterfinal appearances at Roland Garros. But he will need to prove that he can do more damage than that on the red clay of Paris and the lawns at the All England Club. Had he finished off Hurkacz this year in London, Medvedev would have almost surely made the final and played Djokovic there. Had he managed to overcome Tsitsipas in Paris, he might have gone to the final there.

The view here is that Medvedev will make inroads on the other surfaces and be a threat everywhere in the years ahead. The 2021 U.S. Open was a launching pad for a competitor with a wide range of goals and deep determination. He will often be going to other lofty destinations in 2021 and beyond.

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