September 12, 2021

History, Rewritten

I'm sure most people thought they'd be writing hugely different articles today.

After all, the only thing anyone was talking about going into this year's U.S. Open was the chance Novak Djokovic had at making all kinds of history. The possibility of capturing the ever-so-rare Grand Slam. Perhaps the even more impressive opportunity of scoring a never-been-done-before 21st Major title. The chance of cementing himself as the unequivocal #GOAT 🐐 in the sport, with plenty of time left to just add to his accomplishments. And as almost every promo airing on ESPN liked to remind you, he got one match away.

But, as we know, that history was not to be, and an entirely different story will go down in the record books.

Daniil Medvedev became the newest inductee into the Major championship club, stunning the world #1 in tonight's final in straight sets. There was almost never any question he was in control of the match, breaking in the very first game and pulling ahead two sets and two breaks to establish what would turn out to be an insurmountable lead. Even when he double faulted away championship point and was broken for the first time, trying to serve out the match, he was able to regroup and ultimately seal in the victory.

Of course we shouldn't be surprised that Medvedev was able to win a Major -- he came OHSOCLOSE to doing it two years ago on this stage against Rafael Nadal, and with a win in Toronto this year and titles in Paris and London to close out last season, he's certainly established himself as one of the best hardcourt players on tour.

But with his win today, he achieved something bigger. Medvedev became the first Next Gen player to beat one of the Big Three en route to the title -- remember Dominic Thiem got away without facing any of them last year in New York. And that could signal a real passing of the torch is underway, with the Russian taking up the mantle of leader of the pack -- a group he could lead for a long time.

So is it all over for Djokovic? Of course not -- he's still the #1 player in the world and playing at the top of his game. While he'll end the year tied with Rafa and Roger at 20 Majors apiece, the next slate of Grand Slams is just around the corner, and given his dominance in Melbourne, he could very well add #21 to his roster in a matter of months.

Going after the full Grand Slam again, that may be a little tougher, and for now Rod Laver's legacy remains intact. Come January 1, everyone starts at square one in their pursuit of that honor, and there's no reason to believe Djokovic won't give it another whirl.

But now, he's going to have at least one more player nipping at his heels and trying to put his own stamp on history.

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