Djokovic not only broke the men's Open Era record for most career US Open finals this year, he tied the men's all-time record for most career Grand Slam finals.

No, Novak Djokovic didn’t complete the calendar-year Grand Slam at the US Open.

But for all of the headlines using words like “fail” to describe the end result, there's another way to look at Djokovic's showing in New York.

No other man has come anywhere near as close to a Calendar Slam in 52 years:

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic are widely considered the three greatest men’s players of all time, but neither Federer nor Nadal have ever won the first two majors to start a season, let alone the first three, let alone the first three AND reaching the final of the fourth.

Djokovic first pulled off the Australian Open-Roland Garros double in 2016, and this year he did something far more historic. The 34-year-old became the first male player to win the first three majors of the year since Rod Laver went on to claim the calendar-year Grand Slam in 1969.

His run in New York was still record-breaking:

Djokovic reached his ninth career US Open final this year, which is more than any other man in the Open Era. He came into this year’s event in a three-way tie with Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras at eight finals.

This was also his 31st career Grand Slam final, tying Federer for most for a man in tennis history. Nadal isn’t too far behind with 28—no other man has even been to 20.

And his win over No. 4 Alexander Zverev in the semifinals not only avenged a loss to the German from the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics, it was also his 225th career Top 10 win, passing Federer for most career Top 10 wins in ATP rankings history (Federer’s now in second place with 224, followed by Nadal with 178, Lendl with 166 and Jimmy Connors with 131).

Djokovic actually stretched his lead at No. 1 by reaching the final, too—he was only defending fourth-round points in New York this year.

Djokovic actually stretched his lead at No. 1 by reaching the final, too—he was only defending fourth-round points in New York this year.


He got to the final in a historically hard way, and he lost to an incredible opponent:

After dropping the second set of his first-round match against Holger Rune, Djokovic would then lose the first set in four straight matches from the third round through the semifinals—to Kei Nishikori, Jenson Brooskby, Matteo Berrettini and finally Zverev, who also pushed him to five sets.

He’s one of two men in tennis history to come back from a set down four times en route to a major final, and the person's company he joined did it 132 years ago—that would be Quincy Shaw at the 1889 US Open (and he went on to lose the final, too).

It was also the first time Djokovic has ever gotten four wins from a set down at any event, and his six sets lost in total was the most en route to any of his 31 major finals.

From a matchup standpoint, he couldn’t have faced a tougher opponent in the final. World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev not only leads the ATP Tour in hard-court titles, finals and wins over the last three years, but he’s had particular success against Djokovic. Eighty-two players have faced Djokovic more than once when he’s ranked No. 1, and Medvedev is the only one with a winning record (the Russian is now 4-2 against the Serb when he’s No. 1).

And finally, he did it with not one, but TWO massive pieces of history on the line:

From the beginning of the tournament the pressure was on. Yet Djokovic pushed through his fortnight to get within three sets of clinching the calendar-year Grand Slam and becoming the first man to ever win 21 major titles.

He may have come up short last Sunday, but given his storied history of turning defeats into perfection, don't count on Djokovic failing to reach the pinnacle number—and beyond.

Next stop, the Australian Open—where Djokovic is a nine-time champion.