US Open: Tearful Novak Djokovic Copes With Slam Heartbreak, Crowd Love

On Sunday, Novak Djokovic fell short of his first calendar-year Grand Slam since 1969, losing 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 against Russia's second-ranked Daniil Medvedev in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

US Open: Tearful Novak Djokovic Copes With Slam Heartbreak, Crowd Love
US Open: Tearful Novak Djokovic Copes With Slam Heartbreak, Crowd Love

Tearful Novak Djokovic was relieved and saddened as his Grand Slam dream came to an end with a loss in the US Open final, but he received heartfelt support from New York fans. Djokovic, the world number one, lost in the final to Russia's second-ranked Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday, missing the first calendar-year Slam since 1969. "Relief. I was glad it was over," Djokovic said about his feelings in the moments after the defeat.

"The buildup 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," Djokovic said.

"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 created for me on the court."

Djokovic also missed out on a fourth US Open title and 21st career Grand Slam, leaving him deadlocked on the men's record 20 Slam trophies with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. "So many different emotions," he said. "Part of me is very sad. It's a tough one to swallow, this loss, considering everything that was on the line.

"On the other side, here in New York, I felt something I'd never felt before." The audience made me feel really special. They startled me in a good way." Despite being down two sets and two breaks, US Open spectators hoped for a Djokovic comeback, which he stated would go as long as a Grand Slam. 

"I'll never forget the amount of support, enthusiasm, and love I received from the audience," Djokovic remarked. "That's why I was crying at the switchover." "The emotion, the intensity, was palpable. It's the equivalent of winning 21 Grand Slams. That was how I felt, incredibly unique. They made an impression on me. These are the kinds of memories you want to keep. It was really fantastic."

Djokovic admitted he didn't have the game to stay with a determined Medvedev from the start. "I was just below par with my game," Djokovic said. "My legs were not there. I was trying. I did my best. I made a lot of unforced errors. I didn't have any service really.

"Just one of these days where unfortunately wasn't meant to be.

"I know I could have and should have done better. It's a very tough loss."

- Older guys 'hanging on' -

Djokovic took the first look back at a year that included victories at the Australian and French Opens, as well as a Wimbledon title, but also disappointment in New York and a lack of a medal at the Tokyo Olympics. 

"In the last five, six months, it was also an emotionally very trying moment for me," he remarked. 

"Unfortunately, I was unable to complete the final stage. However, before you draw a line, you must be completely content with the year. Three victories, three grand slams, and a final I have to feel proud of what I've accomplished." We soon learn how to turn the next page in tennis. There will be more challenges and events in the near future. I've learnt to endure difficult losses in Slam finals, which are the ones that hurt the most.

"I'll strive to learn from them, get stronger, and keep moving forward." I'll keep riding as long as there's motivation and flare." Djokovic will have to contend with a new crop of young 20-something players, including Medvedev and Alexander Zverev of Germany, who defeated him in the Olympic semi-finals and pushed him to five sets in the US Open semifinals. 

And there will come a moment when luminaries like Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic will have to retire. "The older men are still clinging to life. "We're still doing everything we can to throw a light on the tennis world," he remarked. 

"I still want to keep going, try to win more Slams, play for my country.

Those are the things that motivate me the most I think at this point.

"But the new generation is not anyone new. It's already current. Established. Of course, they are going to take over. I think tennis is in good hands."