Novak Djokovic says he felt “relief” after his bid to complete the calendar Grand Slam ended in a one-sided defeat to Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final.
The world No 1, who had already won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles in 2021, was beaten 6-4 6-4 6-4 by Russian second seed Medvedev at Flushing Meadows.
Not since Rod Laver in 1969 had a man won all four majors in a year, while victory for Djokovic would also have seen him move clear of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with a record 21st Grand Slam men’s singles title.
Asked what his thoughts and emotions were in the immediate aftermath of defeat, Djokovic said: “Relief. I was glad it was over because 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. At the same time, I felt sadness, disappointment, and also gratitude for the crowd and for that special moment that they’ve created for me on the court.”
Djokovic was cheered on by the New York crowd inside the Arthur Ashe stadium, prompting the three-time US Open champion to become emotional in the closing stages of the third set.
Afterwards, in his post-match on-court interview, Djokovic described himself as “the happiest man alive” due to the nature of the support which he has often not received on the Grand Slam stage during his career.
He added: “What I said on the ceremony, I really mean it. 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.
“But on the other hand, I felt something I never felt in my life here in New York. The crowd made me very special. They pleasantly surprised me.
“I did not know, I did not expect anything, but the amount of support and energy and love I got from the crowd was something that I’ll remember forever.”
Djokovic, 34, came into the final having spent more than five hours longer than Medvedev on court and the Serb conceded to feeling short of energy albeit he acknowledged his opponent was the dominant force on the night.
“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.
“If you’re playing someone like Medvedev who hits his spots so well, just aces, gets a lot of free points on his first serve, you’re constantly feeling pressure on your service games.
“I was below par with everything, to be honest. So just one of these days where, unfortunately [it] wasn’t meant to be.”
The top seed, who had lost the first set in his previous four matches, had five break opportunities early in the second but was unable to capitalise.
“Who knows the trajectory of the match if you would make a break in the second early,” the three-time US Open winner added.
“With the crowd, with the support, probably I would feel maybe different.
“But he did so well. I mean, he was amazing. Just congratulate him, full credit from his mentality, his approach, his game, everything.
“He absolutely was the better player and deserved to win, no doubt about it.”
— US Open Tennis (@usopen)
Djokovic, whose rivals Federer and Nadal missed the US Open through injury, says his love of the sport remains undiminished and he will continue with his goal of delivering his best tennis at the slams.
“I’ll try to take, draw some lessons from them, learn, be stronger, and keep going, keep going,” he said.
“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.”
This content was originally published here.