World number one Djokovic missed the first Slam of the calendar year since 1969 at the last hurdle on Sunday, losing to second-placed Russia. Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“Relief. I was glad it was over,” Djokovic said of his feelings in the moments after the loss.
“The preparation for this tournament and everything that I had to face mentally and emotionally throughout the tournament in the last few weeks was a lot. It was a lot to handle,” said Djokovic.
“I was glad that the race was finally over. At the same time, I felt sadness, disappointment and also gratitude for the crowd and for that special moment they created for me on the court.”
“I love you guys”. All the sentiments from @DjokerNole to the fans in New York. https://t.co/PnEHevMVKk
– US Tennis Open (@Usopen) 1631487252000
Djokovic also missed a fourth US Open title and the 21st Grand Slam of his career, leaving him stuck on the men’s record of 20 Slam trophies with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
“So many different emotions,” he said. “Part of me is very sad. This loss is hard to swallow, considering everything that was at stake.
“But on the other hand, I felt something that I never felt in my life here in New York. The crowd made me very special. I was pleasantly surprised.”
Down two sets and two breaks, US Open fans cheered Djokovic’s comeback in a spirit that said he will stay with him as long as a Grand Slam could have.
Respect among competitors. https://t.co/teGc0ZwVLK
– US Tennis Open (@Usopen) 1631487102000
“The amount of support, energy and love that I received from the crowd was something I will remember forever,” said Djokovic. “That’s why I started crying at the change. The emotion, the energy was so strong.
“It’s as strong as winning 21 Grand Slams. That’s how I felt, very special. It touched my heart. This is the kind of moment you cherish. It was just wonderful.”
Djokovic admitted he didn’t have the game to stick with a determined Medvedev from the start.
“I was below par with my game,” Djokovic said. “My legs weren’t there. I was trying. I did my best. I made a lot of unforced errors. I didn’t actually get any serves.”
“Just one of these days that sadly it wasn’t meant to be. I know I could have done better and should have done better. It’s a very tough loss.”
Daniil Medvedev stuns Novak Djokovic in straight sets to win #USOpen https://t.co/Ksup0ClAEI
– US Tennis Open (@Usopen) 1631486014000
Djokovic got his first look at a year that brought Australian and French Open titles and a Wimbledon crown, but pain in New York and no medals at the Tokyo Olympics.
“It was also a very emotionally demanding period for me in the last five, six months,” he said.
“Unfortunately I did not make it in the final step. But when you draw a line, you have to be very satisfied with the year. Three wins, three slams and a final. I have to be proud of everything I have achieved.” .
“On tennis we learn very quickly how to turn the next page. Very soon there will be more challenges, more things to come. I have learned to overcome these kinds of difficult defeats in the Slams finals, the ones that hurt the most.
“I will try to draw some lessons from them, learn, get stronger and keep going. As long as there is motivation and that style, I will keep driving.”
It was the moment for @ DaniilMedwed to shine in the #USOpen Highlights of the men’s individual final 👇 https://t.co/hfP58Ilnio
– US Tennis Open (@Usopen) 1631490999000
Djokovic has to face a new group of rising stars in his twenties, including Medvedev and Germany’s Alexander Zverev, who beat him in the Olympic semi-finals and led him to five sets in the US Open semi-finals.
And there is the inevitable moment when legends like Federer, Nadal and Djokovic must step aside.
“The older guys are still holding out. We are still trying to light up the tennis world as much as we can,” he said.
“I still want to continue, try to win more Slams, play for my country. Those are the things that motivate me the most, I think at the moment.
“But the new generation is nobody new. It is already current. Established. Of course, they are going to take control. I think tennis is in good hands.”