Game-breaker (de; m/f; plural: game-breakers): someone who disrupts the game, a plan. Medvedev is this in the literal and figurative sense. The 25-year-old Russian makes every opponent worse with his atypical tennis (great service, good footwork for his 1.98 meters and almost flawless from far behind the baseline).
On Sunday night, he also took away Djokovic’s dream of becoming the first grand slam winner since Rod Laver in 1969. No fewer than 27 games – at the Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and US Open – had cleared the Serbian superman this year. . At the supreme moment, he didn’t give up.
He had spent 17 hours on the court at Flushing Meadows in the six games leading up to the final, while Medvedev was unafraid to take his first grand slam title. “He found the right spots on the track, he was determined. You felt he was at the top of his game,” said Djokovic. “My legs were not at the appointment. Everything was a bit less, a lot of unnecessary mistakes (34) and no serve.”
There was, of course, a lot of pressure. Djokovic had to and would make history. “I feel relieved,” he sighed afterwards. “Glad it’s over, because building up to this tournament and everything I’ve had to endure mentally over the past few weeks was just too much.”
Djokovic showed himself vulnerable on Sunday: no more petrol in the tank and emotionally exhausted. A man indeed, while in the years before he had an aura of inviolability around him, both on and off the track. His fanatical supporters invariably covered his tantrums with the cloak of love and he himself did not understand that some of his statements or actions – his vaccination stance or the organization of a tennis tour without precautions in the full corona pandemic – could meet with resistance.
On Sunday night, just before the last game, he was crying heartbreakingly on his bench, realizing that the pressure had been too much but also that the tennis fans had finally embraced him. “I felt something here in New York that I had never felt before,” said Djokovic. “Their love, their support, I will remember for the rest of my life. It was as strong as winning a 21st Grand Slam title. They touched my heart. It was magical.”
Djokovic is without a doubt the best player of 2021. Still, a sour aftertaste will linger. He grabbed next to Olympic gold in Tokyo and next to a 21st Grand Slam crown. He remains level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal (20 each). “Luckily in tennis you learn how to turn the page quickly,” Djokovic smiled. “There will be new challenges soon. I will keep going.”