5 min read
History was made over the weekend in New York City, just not how everyone expected it. Instead of Novak Djokovic (UTR Rating 16.23*) winning the calendar-year Grand Slam, he lost Sunday’s final to Daniil Medvedev
(UTR Rating 16.05), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
Djokovic had a 5-3 head-to-head record over the Russian and was the tournament favorite. Medvedev had only managed nine games in this year’s Australian Open final against Djokovic.
Medvedev Spoils Djokovic's Perfect Season
On Sunday, the Serbian wasn’t his best physically after a grueling five-set win over Alexander Zverev in the semifinals.
"I had more hours on the court spent from Daniil, that's for sure," Djokovic said. "But was also an emotionally very demanding period for me in the last five, six months. Slams and Olympics and playing at home in Belgrade. Everything was coming together for me here and kind of accumulating all the emotions that I've been through. Unfortunately, I didn't make it in the final step."
Djokovic, the top seed, was one win away from becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four majors in the same year, and he would have inched ahead of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal's 20 Grand Slam count. It marks Medvedev’s first major, one that required him to battle a crowd that was eagerly encouraging Djokovic to fight back.
“I want to say sorry for you, the fans, and Novak because we all know what he was going for today,” the No. 2-seeded Medvedev said on court. "Today maybe you were a little bit more for Novak, but it’s completely understandable.”
"I was just glad that finally the run is over," Djokovic said. "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."
Medvedev made his first Grand Slam championship celebration unforgettable by flopping to the ground with his tongue out, bringing the "L2 + left" code from the video game FIFA to life.
"I like to play FIFA. I like to play PlayStation. It's called the dead fish celebration," Medvedev said. "If you know your opponent when you play FIFA, many times you're going to do this. You're going to score a goal, you're up 5-0, you do this one."
Going into the final, Universal Tennis INSIGHTS had given Medvedev a 37% chance of pulling off the upset, meaning Djokovic wasn't an entirely sure bet for the title despite his status as the favorite. What Medvedev had going for him was a much fresher body and the fact that he a recent win over the World No. 1 at the 2020 ATP Finals in November.
Raducanu Makes History
It would end up being the unseeded, all-teenage women’s final that became the storyline of the tournament. Emma Raducanu
(UTR Rating 12.60) won the title over Canada's Leylah Fernandez
(UTR Rating 12.70), 6-4, 6-3 to make her own history. She’s the first qualifier ever to win a Grand Slam and the first British woman in 44 years to raise a major trophy.
“It’s an absolute dream. You just have visions of yourself going up to the box, hugging everyone, celebrating,” Raducanu said. “For that moment to actually happen, I’m just so grateful.”
The 18-year-old Brit had just made her WTA debut in June and her Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon, where she reached the fourth round as a wild card.
“The way that I’m approaching my matches is each time I’m thinking to myself, ‘Why not?’ Someone has to be in the second week,” she said in London, “why not me?”
She’s now the youngest Grand Slam champion since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004. On her third match point, she hit an ace out wide to clinch the victory.
"The match point, I don’t think I made one serve that wide in the whole match, to be honest," Raducanu said. "I was, like, If I’m going to make it, this is going to be the time. I literally drove my legs up to that ball toss like never before. Yeah, I landed it. Just disbelief, trying to take everything in, all the moment."
Her breakthrough has enlightened the world and Raducanu is officially a household name.
INSIGHTS gave 19-year-old Fernandez the edge going into the final but Raducanu has been impossible to stop, and did not drop a set in 10 matches. According to INSIGHTS, Raducanu was the best performer of the fortnight: She played like a UTR Rating 13.09 (+0.49) across seven main-draw matches. INSIGHTS' total accuracy across the women's tournament was 76.2% and across the men's event it was 71.7%.
"I’ve always dreamed of winning a Grand Slam," Raducanu said. "You just say these things. You say, I want to win a Grand Slam. But to have the belief I did, and actually executing, winning a Grand Slam, I can’t believe it."
•UTR Ratings and INSIGHTS probabilities as of 9 p.m. EST, Sept. 12, 2021.