NEW YORK – Just when the US Open was on the verge of its dream weekend, Daniil Medvedev did perhaps the most Medvedev-like thing and messed it all up.
With a stunning 7-6 (7-3), 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win over Carlos Alcaraz, the reigning champion and 20-year-old wunderkind of the sport, Medvedev – the game’s happy troll, playful wise guy and unorthodox baseliner – took a wrench to the popular plans to watch the next chapter of Alcaraz’s mounting generational rivalry with Novak Djokovic.
Instead of a rematch of the Wimbledon final won by Alcaraz in July, Sunday will bring a rematch of the 2021 US Open title-decider between Medvedev and Djokovic, which the former won.
The Russian is expecting Djokovic, who beat American Ben Shelton 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4), to be in top form, but he added that he will try to produce his "best-ever version" to beat the 23-time Grand Slam champion.
“He (Djokovic) is always better than the previous time he plays,” said Medvedev.
“For example, I beat him in the US Open final, he beat me in Paris Masters... Carlos beat him in Wimbledon, he beat him in Cincinnati.
“Novak is going to be his best version on Sunday, and I have to be the best-ever version of myself to beat him.
“Novak, when he loses, he’s never the same after... It’s just a different mentality. 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 10 times better than I was that day.”
The 27-year-old, however, said nothing will change much and he would stick to his pre-match routine before facing the 36-year-old veteran Serb.
“I’m going to do all the same. It’s just the mental preparation where... you want to fight till the end, you want to win, and that’s how you should be in the final of a Grand Slam,” he said.
He also said the win against Alcaraz was a confidence boost and acknowledged that he would be "hell disappointed" if he were to lose the final despite a successful run at New York.
“To know I’m capable of doing it on the big stage... every time you win one more time it brings more confidence,” Medvedev added.
“You know you can do it again. You want to do it again. You want to feel this. And at the same time, what is most important is to forget about it and go for the next one.”
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Djokovic is hunting a fourth US Open title that would see him equal Margaret Court’s record haul of 24 Grand Slams and a good measure of revenge on Medvedev.
He is about to play his fourth Major final this season, and he has already won two, the Australian and French Opens.
However, he insisted that he was not focusing on the significance of a 24th title.
“(I don’t) think about the history too much, because when I did that in the past, like in the 2021 finals here I was maybe overwhelmed with the occasion and the opportunity (of a calendar Slam) and I underperformed,” he said.
“So I don’t want this to happen again, and I’ll try to, you know, just focus on what needs to be done and tactically prepare myself for that match.”
Djokovic, who will take the top spot in the world rankings when they update after the tournament, added that he could have clinched the 24th Grand Slam at Wimbledon but he “lost to a better player” in Alcaraz.
So, like Medvedev believes, chances are the Serb will bounce back strong on Sunday.
“Every time in a Grand Slam final it’s another shot for history and I’m aware of it,” Djokovic said.
“But... I don’t have much time nor do I allow myself to reflect on these things.
“(For the final) I will always believe in myself, in my own capabilities, in my quality as a tennis player to be able to deliver when it matters.” NYTIMES, REUTERS