Daniil Medvedev pulled off a massive upset Sunday in the final and richest major of the tennis calendar, with a dominating 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Novak Djokovic, who was seeking the first men’s Grand Slam in 52 years and a record-breaking 21st major title.
Rod Laver in 1969 will remain the last man to win all four majors in a single year, and Djokovic stays tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the career slam scoreboard.
It was the first major title for Medvedev, who lost his one previous slam final, the 2019 U.S. Open. He pockets $2.5 million of the $57.5 million purse and pushes his career prize money to $19.8 million. The 25-year-old Russian ranked seventh in Sportico’s recent look at the world’s highest-paid tennis players with $14.7 million, including $10 million off the court in the 12 months through May 2021.
The 141st U.S. Open kicked off without the star-studded trio of Federer, Nadal and Serena Williams, but it ended with a bang as the return of crowds—following a spectator-free 2020 event—made for an electric atmosphere, as fans witnessed a pair of history-making finals over the weekend.
Saturday’s women’s final featured two unseeded teens who captivated fans during the fortnight. Britain’s Emma Raducanu defeated Canadian Leylah Fernandez, 6-4, 6-3. Raducanu needed to win three qualifying matches to reach the main draw and was the first female qualifier to ever make a Grand Slam final, let alone win one. She stormed through the field without dropping a set. Fernandez, who turned 19 this week, showed the poise of someone much older in defeat.
“I know on this day, it’s especially hard for New York and everyone around the United States,” Fernandez said in her post-match interview, referring to the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. “I just want to say that I hope I can be as strong and resilient as New York has been the last 20 years. Thank you for always having my back. Thank you for cheering for me. I love you, New York.”
Djokovic, almost never the fan favorite in his matches versus Federer and Nadal, had the crowd roaring for him to make a comeback Sunday, as they wanted to witness history. “I’m going to play this [final] like it’s the last match of my career,” said Djokovic ahead of the match. But Medvedev was relentless, particularly when serving, and he continuously frustrated Djokovic, who smashed his racket during the second set. Medvedev dropped just one set during his seven-match title run.
Medvedev is only the second active men’s player under the age of 30 with a Grand Slam title, joining Dominic Thiem. It speaks to the dominance of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, who have captured 60 of the past 72 slam events, including 17 of the past 18 ahead of the Open.
In recent years, Medvedev has gained traction with sponsors, who are attracted to his play and personality. Their bet is he will succeed the Big Three at the top of the sport. Lacoste locked him up at the end of last year in a five-year contract extension that runs through 2026. Industry insiders estimate that it is worth $25-30 million. His other partners include Technibre, BMW, Bovet, Tinkoff and HyperX.
More riches could be on the horizon. “These guys have to win and win consistently to break through,” said Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing expert at Pinnacle Advertising, in a phone interview last month. “Grand Slam events are what attract that casual fan.”