Novak Djokovic was finally overtaken by the weight of history. Very close to making a little more of his imprint on the tennis legend, the Serbian lost in the final of the US Open on Sunday against the Russian Daniil Medvedev (6-4, 6-4, 6-4). A dry and unexpected defeat which deprives him of a fourth coronation in New York, but above all considerably slows down his quest for the ultimate title, that of GOAT (for Greatest Of All Time, the best of all time).
Because Sunday, Djokovic had a great opportunity to silence the skeptics considering him the third man of the trio he forms with the Spaniard Rafael Nadal and the Swiss Roger Federer. He could at the same time overtake his two rivals in the number of successful only by the American Donald Budge in 1938 and the Australian Rod Laver in 1962 and 1969), having already lifted the trophy this season at the Australian Open, Roland-Garros and Wimbledon.
” I consider myself the best, otherwise I wouldn’t be openly talking about winning Grand Slam tournaments and making history “, Declared also, a bit provocative, Novak Djokovic, just after having equaled Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at 20 Grand Slams at the last Wimbledon. A way of remembering at the time that it was he who had the wind at his back in the hunt for records that the three men engage in.
But this breath suddenly fell this Sunday on the Arthur Ashe court. The fault in particular with a Daniil Medvedev who had announced before the meeting ” not to care Of the Serbian’s potential records. After spending this season next to his final at the Australian Open against the Serbian (7-5, 6-2, 6-2), the protégé of the French Gilles Cervara wanted his revenge. With an entry break in his favor and four aces in two service games, the tone was set.
Djokovic this time unable to raise his level
On the other side of the court, Novak Djokovic could not shake off the leaden screed weighing on his shoulders since the start of the fortnight. A nervousness glimpsed throughout the tournament, and summarized by his interview given on the court after his success in the quarterfinals against the Italian Matteo Berrettini. Asked by the former American player Patrick McEnroe on the prospect of achieving the calendar Grand Slam, the Serbian then stepped in, responding firmly ” i don’t want to talk about this “.
The loss of the first set against Daniil Medvedev (6-4) was not necessarily much alarming for the Serbian, he who had already recovered a set behind in his last four rounds. But unlike his semi-final against the German Alexander Zverev, the “Djoker” failed to raise his level of play to bring him to the level of this final.
Worse, he seemed physically exhausted and unable to bend his opponent in the rally until a defeat that seemed inevitable, breaking quickly at the start of each round. Despite a break conceded at the time of conclusion, it was Medvedev who won to register his name on the list of Grand Slam winners.
Even in the event of victory, the debate of the famous GOAT would not have been settled anyway. But this title would have given sacred arguments to the supporters of Djokovic, including Zverev, as he explained after his duel against the Serbian. ” If you look at the stats, and you stick to tennis, he’s the greatest of all time. He breaks all records, no one can compare to him “.
An endless debate
Because if Novak Djokovic came close enough to stroke his dream of a calendar Grand Slam with his fingertips, it is first of all because he went to look for his Swiss and Spanish rivals in their dens. First against Federer at Wimbledon, in 2019, where he went to steal the crown of the master of the house in a final with the Hitchcockian scenario (7-6, 1-6, 7-6, 4-6, 13- 12). Then at Roland Garros this year, after a daunting fight against Rafael Nadal in the semi-final (3-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-2).
So what more does it take for Djokovic to be considered the GOAT (for “Greatest Of All Time”)? The record of Master 1000 won? It is already he who co-owns it, tied with Nadal (36 titles). The number of weeks spent in the place of world number one? This Monday he begins his 338e, absolute record. The Serb is also the only one to have won at least twice each of the Majors.
Paradoxically, Djokovic may have found in this defeat what he sought for a long time in victory. The Belgrade native has always run behind the titles, but also after the love of an audience that only has eyes for Nadal and Federer. In the third set of the final, Djokovic was seen in tears in his briefcase as the 23,000 spectators at Arthur Ashe Stadium gave him a standing ovation worthy of a winner.
And now ? Novak Djokovic is necessarily the best placed to clinch the record for the number of Grand Slams won. Especially since none of his historical rivals can currently defend his luck on a tennis court. Roger Federer, has just undergone a third knee arthroscopy in a year and a half, while Rafael Nadal appeared last week on crutches on Instagram after receiving treatment for his left foot.
Still, the opportunity to achieve the perfect Grand Slam season may not come again for 34-year-old Djokovic. Especially since it will have to do with a new generation finally ready to take up the torch, like Stefanos Tsistipas, Alexander Zverev and, of course, Daniil Medvedev.