Novak Djokovic's staggering confession in US Open press conference

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Novak Djokovic, pictured here speaking to the media after the US Open final.
Novak Djokovic speaks to the media after the US Open final. Image: US Open

Novak Djokovic has admitted he felt an overwhelming sense of relief that his quest for a calendar year Grand Slam was finally over despite a brutal loss in the US Open final.

Djokovic was bidding to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to sweep all four majors in one year having already won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon crowns in 2021.

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However it wasn't to be as the World No.1 suffered an unthinkable 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 loss to Daniil Medvedev in Sunday's final in New York.

But despite the straight-sets loss, Djokovic says he was just happy his chase for grand slam perfection in 2021 was finally over.

When asked in his post-match press conference to describe his emotions, the 34-year-old said: "Relief."

"I was glad it was over because the build up 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."

Djokovic was overcome with emotion late in the third set, breaking down in tears as the New York crowd willed him to show some fight.

The Serbian star, who has never enjoyed much crowd support around the world, admitted the crowd was behind his tears.

"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," he revealed.

Australian legend Laver, the last man to achieve the Grand Slam in singles 52 years ago, was in the crowd to witness what most anticipated would be a momentous moment in tennis history.

Instead, it was momentous for Medvedev, the 25-year-old finally a champion at the highest level to become the first Russian male to claim a grand slam title since Marat Safin triumphed at the Australian Open in 2005.

"It's a tough one to swallow, this loss, considering everything that was on the line," Djokovic, who was bidding to become just the third man after Don Budge (1938) and Laver (1962 and 1969) to secure a true Grand Slam.

Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev, pictured here after the US Open final.
Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev pose with their trophies after the US Open final. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Djokovic misses chance to surpass Federer and Nadal record

The result also means Djokovic remains tied with his great rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 slam titles - the 34-year-old being served notice here that a new generation is rising, headed by World No.2 Medvedev.

Djokovic had said before stepping on court that he hoped to bring the "best version of myself" and promised he was "ready for the battle", but he appeared to be running on close to empty at times on Sunday.

"My legs were not there. I was trying. I did my best.. I was below par with everything, to be honest," he said.

"So just one of these days where unfortunately, yeah, wasn't meant to be."

Djokovic had won all 10 matches in grand slams this year in which he'd lost the first set, including four at this tournament.

However he couldn't make it 11 despite the help of a crowd that had never really embraced Djokovic the way they had wrapped their arms around Federer and Nadal in the past.

Perhaps sensing they were about to witness something special, the crowd rallied behind Djokovic from the moment he stepped on court, showering him with cheers and chants of his nickname: "Nole, Nole, Nole".

During the final change-over, with his hopes all but dashed, emotions got the better of the Serb who held a towel over his face and cried, clearly overwhelmed by the support he was getting from the crowd.

"I felt something I never felt in my life here in New York," Djokovic said.

"The crowd made me (feel) very special.

"I did not expect anything, but the amount of support and energy and love I got from the crowd was something that I'll remember forever."

with agencies

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