Australian tennis great Todd Woodbridge has fired back at some of the criticism aimed at Novak Djokovic, particularly claims the World No.1 "choked" because of "nerves" in the US Open final.
Djokovic's bid to claim a record-breaking 21st major title and become the first man in 52 years to win a calendar year Grand Slam ended in tears after a shock straight sets defeat to Russian Daniil Medvedev.
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The Australian's Will Swanton wrote in his report that Djokovic "totally and utterly unravelled" during the defeat to Medvedev.
"Djoker. Choker," he wrote.
"Everyone was up for the occasion - except him. He started flat and stayed there.
"Poor footwork is the tell-tale sign of nerves and Djokovic couldn't get moving. It was the worst match of his career."
The Australian Financial Review (AFR) were equally as unflattering towards Djokovic when comparing the Serb to Australia's 'Golden Slam' winner, wheelchair tennis star Dylan Alcott.
The AFR headline read: "Alcott chugs beer while Djokovic chokes", while the Associated Press' Brian Mahoney said "Djokovic was left in tears as he was overwhelmed by nerves".
Woodbridge described such reporting around Djokovic as "absurd" and said even though the World No.1 fell agonisingly short in his quest for history, his achievements in 2021 are no less extraordinary.
"It riles me to think that a journalist would suggest he choked. If that's what they think, they have no idea of what is required by the athlete, Woodbridge told Nine's Wide World of Sports.
"It's just absurd to even suggest that, it's absolutely ridiculous.
"Are you kidding me? This was an epic achievement. Did he play his best in the final? No, he didn't. But there's reasons for that that go beyond choking.
"He had to go back-to-back-to-back against the three next best players in the world, Matteo Berrenttini, Alexander Zverev and then Medvedev."
No man since Rod Laver in 1969 has managed to win all four tennis majors in the same year and the Australian is one of only two - alongside Don Budge - to do so.
Laver also did it in 1962 for good measure.
Those numbers prove just how difficult it is to achieve that Djokovic was hoping to in New York, with the World No.1's task made even harder by the quality of opponent he had to face.
Novak Djokovic's draw made historic bid tougher
"The draw actually delivered him the three toughest opponents he could have faced," Woodbridge explained.
"Berrettini in the quarters, who has been playing well and made a Wimbledon final this year; Zverev, who had beaten him at the Olympics, so there was that element of belief, and that went a tough five sets in the semi-final.
"Then after that he faces Medvedev, who has been in two Grand Slam finals and knows what it's about, and Medvedev had played five and a half hours less to get to the final. That's two marathons extra that Djokovic had to recover from, to play a guy who was fresh and as confident as he'd ever been.
Djokovic explained after his bid for a record-breaking 21st grand slam title was ended that he'd never experienced such support from the US Open crowd before.
"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."
Djokovic was left in tears after his taxing bid to create history, with the 20-time grand slam champion making a surprising admission after his lop-sided final defeat to Medvedev.
"Relief," the 34-year-old Djokovic told reporters when asked what his emotions were after the match.
"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...
"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."
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