NEW YORK — From the moment world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz lifted the Wimbledon trophy after defeating Novak Djokovic in an epic five-set thriller in July, tennis fans have been manifesting a rematch in New York. And for most of the past two weeks, their meeting in Sunday’s US Open final seemed inevitable. Djokovic did his part Friday, taking the first semifinal in straight sets over American Ben Shelton 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (4) and booking his spot in the final.
But 2021 US Open champion Daniil Medvedev had other plans and ended the 20-year-old’s run toward a second-straight US Open title with a 7-6 (3), 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win in Friday’s second semifinal. With the victory, Medvedev set up a rematch of his own against Djokovic, who he defeated here two years ago to win his first and only major title.
So, what went wrong for Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz? Here are four takeaways from his exit.
Medvedev won the mental game.
Throughout Friday’s match, the 27-year-old Russian appeared calm and emotionless, even in that tight third set. During changeovers, Medvedev sat with an almost tranquil demeanor until the last moment, while Alcaraz jumped up early, bounced around his side of the court and hit balls against the wall behind the baseline.
In the first set tiebreak, Alcaraz uncharacteristically lost his cool and came close to smashing his racket against the court. “After 3-all in the tiebreak, I lose my mind,” Alcaraz said after the match. “I make three or four points without control. I didn’t think. I totally lose my mind on that set. I was fighting for 50 minutes and then, for four points, lose my mind. It was really tough for me to handle it. In the second set, I didn’t come back.”
Medvedev pounced any time he saw Alcaraz give in to his emotions. That, as much as his net game, was part of the plan. “In sport, I believe the energy you have, the determination, that makes a huge difference,” Medvedev’s coach, Gilles Cervara, said after the match. Cervara said he told Medvedev to play aggressive, attacking tennis against Alcaraz, but that Medvedev’s mindset was just as important in earning the upset. “To be aggressive is one part of the strategy,” Cervara said. “But it’s also your mental game. It’s not just hitting the ball…