Djokovic missed out on his fourth US Open title and will enter 2022 tied with “Big Three” rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both absent with injuries, on an all-time record 20 men’s Slam titles.
A tearful Djokovic paid tribute to the crowd that roared support for him even when all seemed lost down two sets and two breaks.
“Even though I have not won the match, my heart is filled with joy and I’m the happiest man alive because you guys have made me feel special on the court,” Djokovic said.
“You guys touch my soul. I’ve never felt like this in New York.”
Instead of joining immortals Laver and Don Budge, who completed the first men’s Slam in 1938, Djokovic became the third man to fall at the final match attempting to complete the Slam after Australians Jack Crawford in 1933 and Lew Hoad in 1956.
Djokovic saw his 27-match Slam win streak halted three victories shy of the record he set in 2015 and 2016 when he won four consecutive Slams, ending with the 2016 French Open.
Medvedev, 25, became the third Russian man to win a Grand Slam title after Yevgeny Kafelnikov at the 1996 French Open and 1999 Australian Open and Marat Safin at the 2000 US Open and 2005 Australian Open.
Struggle from the start
In the biggest of Djokovic’s 1,176 career matches, he made two unforced forehand errors to surrender a break in the first game to Medvedev, who held through to take the first set in 36 minutes, never facing a breakpoint.
It was the fifth consecutive match in which Djokovic dropped the first set.
Medvedev dropped only three points on his serve in the first set but lost that many to open his first service game in the second.
Djokovic, however, squandered his break chances and Medvedev held to 1-1.
Medvedev hit a backhand wide to give Djokovic a break chance in the fourth game but he netted a forehand volley.
After botching a forehand on the following point, Djokovic shattered his racquet and on the next sent a backhand long as Medvedev held to 2-2.
In the fifth game, Djokovic mis-hit a backhand volley to hand Medvedev a break and a 3-2 lead, and the Russian held three times to claim the set.
Medvedev broke to begin the third set and again in the third game when a botched volley seemed to signal the end of the Slam chase.
Djokovic held at love in the fifth game but Medvedev held again to 5-1 and served for the match in the eighth game.
Medvedev double-faulted on championship point and again, then netted a forehand to surrender a break that kept Djokovic in the match.
“It was not easy,” Medvedev said.
Serving again for the match at 5-4, Medvedev double-faulted on his second match point but finally got over the line on his third chance with a service winner after two hours and 16 minutes.