There have been 14 previous tour-level meetings between Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev, but there may be only one in the back of each player’s mind as they step out Sunday on Arthur Ashe Stadium to compete in the US Open championship match.
Medvedev’s straight-sets victory in the 2021 final at Flushing Meadows is not only remembered as the moment he lifted his maiden major trophy. With his 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win, he also denied Djokovic a historic calendar-year Grand Slam. The 27-year-old is not counting on a similar outcome this time around.
“I think the only way I can use [the 2021 final] is thinking that Novak, when he loses, he’s never the same after. He’s different. It’s just a different mentality,” said Medvedev on Friday night after downing top seed Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals. “That’s why he has 23 Grand Slams, [all those] Masters 1000s and weeks at No. 1.
“So I have to use it knowing that he’s going to be 10 times better than he was that day, and I have to be, if I want to still beat him, 10 times better than I was that day. That’s what I’m going to try to do.”
Medvedev in action against Carlos Alcaraz on Friday in New York. Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images
After narrowly missing out to Alcaraz in the final at Wimbledon, the calendar-year Grand Slam is not on the line this time around for Djokovic in New York. Yet his triumphs this year at the Australian Open and Roland Garros, which took him past Rafael Nadal to a record 23 major men’s singles titles, have placed him in history-setting territory at every major he enters regardless.
“I understand every time in a Grand Slam final, it’s another shot for history,” said Djokovic after easing past #NextGenATP American Ben Shelton in the semi-finals. “I’m aware of it, and of course I’m very proud of it, but I don’t have much time, nor do I allow myself to reflect on these things or think about the history too much in this sense. When I did that in the past, like the 2021 final here, I was maybe overwhelmed with the occasion and the opportunity, and I underperformed.
“I don’t want this to happen again, and I’ll try to just focus on what needs to be done and tactically prepare myself for that match.”
Aside from a thrilling five-set comeback win against Laslo Djere in the third round, Djokovic has cruised to his record-equalling 10th US Open final this fortnight without dropping another set. The 36-year-old’s return game has been in particularly fine fettle throughout and…