Novak Djokovic hid his tears during a changeover, covering his face with a towel as he played the last game of his bid for the first calendar-year Grand Slam of men’s tennis.

Djokovic won 27 Grand Slam matches on hard, clay, and grass in 2021. Djokovic needed one more win in the U.S. Open final against Daniil Medvedev to complete his season sweep of major titles, and claim the record 21st match of his career.

Djokovic was outplayed by someone with a similar style as his, and lost 6-4,6-4,6-4 to Medvedev, the first-time major champion at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Djokovic sat on the sidelines, aware that his quest was only moments away from being completed.

“Relief. It was a relief to have it over. The buildup for the tournament and all the emotional, mental, and physical issues that I had to deal the last few weeks was just too much. “It was a lot to manage,” Djokovic stated at his news conference. “I was glad that the run was over. “I felt sadness, disappointment, and gratitude for the crowd, and the special moment they created for me on court.”

The No. Djokovic, who was ranked 1 in the world, had performed admirably at four of the most important tournaments in the sport, enduring the pressures and expectations over the past seven and a half months, and the fortnight in New York.

He won the Australian Open in Feb, beating Medvedev in straight sets. He also won the French Open in June, Wimbledon in July and the French Open in June. This brought him even with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at 20 Grand Slam titles. It is the most Grand Slam titles ever won by a man in the history a sport that dates back to the 1800s.

Rod Laver was the last man to achieve a Grand Slam by going 4-for-4 at the majors in one season. He did it twice, in 1962 and 1969. Sunday’s appearance was his second. Steffi Graf, in 1988, was the last woman to achieve this feat.

Djokovic, Jack Crawford in 1933, and Lew Hoad 1956 are the men who won the first three Grand Slam tournaments of the year and reached the U.S. Open final.

Medvedev, a Russian 25-year-old, said that Novak was making him feel so sorry. He had been 0-2 in major finals. “Knowing I was able to stop him makes it even sweeter and gives me confidence for the future.”

Djokovic, a Serbian 34-year-old, was not at his best on this day.

Djokovic said that he felt tired and sluggish energy-wise. He couldn’t make the same comeback in his four previous matches, as well as six other Grand Slam matches this year, when he lost the first set.

He said, “I know that I could have, or should have done better.”

Djokovic made many mistakes. 38 of them were unforced. Djokovic was unable to convert a break opportunity until it was too late. He went just 1 for 6. He also displayed frustration by hitting his racket three times against the court, drawing boos and violating code from Damien Dumusois, the chair umpire.

Many of Djokovic’s problems were also related to the No. Medvedev, ranked 2, used his 6’6 (1.98-meters) frame to chase down all and respond with seemingly effortless groundstrokes. This was similar to Djokovic’s way of wearing down foes.

He was simply amazing. Djokovic stated, “Just congratulate him. Full credit to his mentality. His approach. His game. Everything.” He was undoubtedly the better player, and he deserved to win.

Medvedev won 20 out of his 23 first service points. This established a pattern. Medvedev finished the match with 16 aces, 38 winners and 11 more than Djokovic. Medvedev used a strategy that his coach Gilles Cervara described as hitting more balls in the middle of court than trying to find angles that would allow Djokovic to grab balls on the run.

“Every match is different because he’s so talented,” Medvedev said. Medvedev spoke highly of Djokovic, saying that he changed his tactics and his approach.

“I had a clear strategy, and it seemed to work. Did he perform at his best? Perhaps not today. Medvedev stated that he was under a lot pressure. “I felt a lot of pressure.”

Medvedev was overcome by nerves, distractions from spectators, and cramps in his legs at the end. Medvedev served at 5-2, was one point away from winning the match before double-faulting twice. He had a match point at 5-4 and double-failed again. Medvedev fell to the court with his tongue out and fell to his side.

Medvedev addressed Djokovic during the trophy presentation. He expressed gratitude for “what you did this year and throughout the course of your career.”

There has been constant debate over who among the so-called Big Three — Federer (who turned 40 last month), Nadal, 35, and Djokovic — should be considered the “GOAT” (“Greatest of All Time”) in recent years.

Even with Sunday’s defeat, Djokovic still has statistics that support his case. He is the only member of that trio who has won four majors consecutively in two seasons (2015-16). He is the only player to have won at least two major tournament titles. He is also the only player to have won at least two of the Masters 1000 next-tier events. He has been at No. 1 for more weeks than any other player. Since 1973 when the ATP computerized rankings were created, Federer was crowned No. 1. He also holds the advantage in head-to-head matches against his long-time rivals.

Djokovic, after a five-set victory over Alexander Zverev, Tokyo Olympics gold medalist, on Friday night, looked ahead to the final and said, “I’m going put my heart, my soul, my body, and my head into that one.” The next match will be treated as if it were the end of my career.

Medvedev, who had lost just one set throughout the tournament, did not allow Djokovic to enter this match.

Djokovic wasn’t himself from the beginning. Djokovic was not himself after he failed to win three break points in the second set. The last one involved a slice backhand in the net. He pounded his racket against the thigh – one, two, three and four times.

Many people cheered him on by singing his nickname “No-le!” No-le! No-le!

Djokovic was unable to overcome the deficit at the end and the climb was too steep.

He said, “I was below par in everything, to be truthful.” “So, just one of these days that, unfortunately, wasn’t meant to be.”