Serbia awoke to disappointment on Monday after Novak Djokovic failed in his attempt to make tennis history by becoming the first man in more than 50 years to win a calendar-year Grand Slam.
Instead of the usual fireworks, car horns blaring and dancing in the streets after previous major finals involving Djokovic, there was an eerie silence in the Serbian capital. The top-ranked Djokovic lost to Russian opponent Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 on Sunday in the U.S. Open final.
A victory would have made the 34-year-old Djokovic the first man to win the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open in the same year since Rod Laver did it in 1969.
He also would have won a record 21st Grand Slam singles title, breaking a tie with both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
“It was now or never for the calendar Slam, but the 21st Slam is very much within the sight,” Serbian tennis journalist Sasa Ozmo wrote on the SK Sporklub portal.
Djokovic’s rabid fanbase was split on what he should do next.
Some fans on social media in Serbia called on Djokovic to retire while still at the top of the rankings, while others believe he will rebound and be considered the greatest tennis player of all time.
“Nole, You’re the Greatest Even Without the Calendar Grand Slam,” the Blic daily wrote in a headline.
“Djokovic Misses a Historic Chance,“ N1 portal wrote, while the Kurir tabloid noted ”Even a Rock Would Cry.”
Following the match, Djokovic cut short his news conference with Serbian media after breaking down in tears.
“I feel disappointment and sadness because a great chance was lost,” Djokovic said. “It is not easy to suffer such a defeat.”
Djokovic had a rare chance for a Golden Slam this year because of the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics. He lost to Alexander Zverev in the semifinals of that tournament, but still had the chance to make history in New York with the traditional Grand Slam.
Djokovic didn’t say what he would do next or where he would play.
“To be honest, I don’t have any plan. Absolutely nothing,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll play anything, anywhere. Currently, I’m here in New York with my thoughts.
“Of course, my life is now completely different … I would like to spend more time with my children,” Djokovic said as he broke down in tears.
Djokovic also showed some rare emotion on the court. As his Grand Slam bid was ending late in the match, he covered his face with a towel, hiding his tears during a changeover.
Tennis great Boris Becker, Djokovic’s former coach, said the pressure of making history was too much.
“He was mentally not prepared,” Becker said, “to control his emotions.”