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Tennis legend slams 'absurd' Djokovic claim

Wide World of Sports logo Wide World of Sports 2 days ago Brett Graham
a man holding a glass of wine: Daniil Medvedev and Novak Djokovic share a laugh during the trophy presentation © Getty Daniil Medvedev and Novak Djokovic share a laugh during the trophy presentation

Australian tennis legend Todd Woodbridge has slammed suggestions that Novak Djokovic choked during his US Open loss to Daniil Medvedev.

Djokovic was beaten in straight sets in the final, with history beckoning. A win would have been his 21st major title, an all-time record, and the first time since 1969 a male had won the calendar year Grand Slam.

Writing in The Australian, Will Swanton said Djokovic "totally and utterly unravelled."

"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 (also owned by Nine) ran its report of the final day of the US Open under the headline "Alcott chugs beer while Djokovic chokes" in a reference to Dylan Alcott completing the Golden Slam.

"Djokovic was left in tears as he was overwhelmed by nerves," wrote the Associated Press' Brian Mahoney.

Woodbridge, who won 22 Grand Slam doubles titles during his career, said such a take completely missed the mark.

"It's just absurd to even suggest that, it's absolutely ridiculous," he told Wide World of Sports.

"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.


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"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."

To put Djokovic's achievements into perspective, no male had even won the first three major titles in a year since Laver in 1969.

"The enormity of the task made it such a difficult proposition," Woodbridge said.

"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.

"You have to win 28 matches in a row to win the Grand Slam, and he didn't fall short because he choked, he fell short because of the hurdles that were placed in front of him to achieve something so incredible."

Rod Laver et al. wearing military uniforms: Australia's Rod Laver remains the last male to win the calendar year Grand Slam. © Getty Australia's Rod Laver remains the last male to win the calendar year Grand Slam.

Regardless of the fact Djokovic is the number one player in the world, Woodbridge pointed to the difficulties he faced in the second week of the US Open.

"The draw actually delivered him the three toughest opponents he could have faced," he 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.

Daniil Medvedev holding a racket: Daniil Medvedev of Russia reacts as he plays against Novak Djokovic of Serbia. © Getty Daniil Medvedev of Russia reacts as he plays against Novak Djokovic of Serbia.

"The accumulation of the draw and the moment was just too hard to overcome. That's why it's hard to see anybody ever winning the calendar year Grand Slam on the men's side."

After his semi-final win over Zverev, Djokovic said he'd prepare for the final as though it was the last match of his career, given the enormity of what a win would mean.

According to Woodbridge, such a mindset was a mistake.

"I know from personal experience, Mark (Woodforde) and I, at the Sydney Olympics, our last match, the energy expended before we even got to the start of the match was enough to take the edge off us on that day.

"But you can't be too critical of a guy who won 27 matches out of 28."

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