Djokovic missed out on the calendar slam at the final hurdle but declared himself ‘the happiest man alive’ after his defeat

Something was wrong. The machine was malfunctioning. The power was blinking on and off. Routine backhands were dropping into the net. Forehands were flying long. On Amazon, which was hosting UK television coverage of the US Open men’s final, users were already beginning to voice their disapproval in the reviews. “Awful quality,” noted one. “Glitches throughout, not good enough service.” “Very disappointing quality coverage.” They weren’t talking about Novak Djokovic, but they might as well have been.

Of course, over the years we have all glimpsed Djokovic in various states of disrepair, and most of the time we think we know how it turns out. The machine reboots, re-initialises, rights itself. Debilitating injuries heal themselves in minutes. A racquet gets wrecked, and the spare he pulls out of his bag turns out to be made of plutonium. Lost sets are avenged with a kind of industrial fury. We have learned that Djokovic’s moments of greatest vulnerability are merely the recoil, the pregnant silence that precedes an orchestral crash.

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