And there were just two. One of Novak Djokovic or Daniil Medvedev will take home the US Open trophy. The stage is set, and history is on the line as the top two seeds gear themselves to battle in what promises to be the most important Slam final of the calendar year.
US Open Final Preview
Novak Djokovic is one of the greatest clutch players our sport has ever seen. Coming into the semifinal on Friday, Alexander Zverev was on a 16-match unbeaten streak that included a win over Djokovic in the semifinals at Tokyo Olympics. But when it mattered the most in the 5th set at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the Serb exactly knew how to turn on the heat. Djokovic mastered Zverev 4-6 6-2 6-4 4-6 6-2 in 3 hours and 34 minutes to book a place in his 5th consecutive Major final. It’s the 31st Major final of his illustrious career.
Djokovic is on the cusp of a historic moment as he aims to win his record-breaking 21st Major, which would long-time rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. The No.2 Seed, Daniil Medvedev, is his final frontier to conquer. It’s a rematch of this year’s Australian Open final, which the Serb won in straight sets.
The 34-year-old Serb is not only on the verge of surpassing Federer and Nadal’s tally of Slam titles, but he is also just a win away from completing the Calendar Slam.
While Djokovic has hogged all the limelight at this year’s US Open, Medvedev has quietly cruised to his third Major final, dropping just one set en route. The 25-year-old Russian breezed past 12th-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4 7-5 6-2 in just over two hours in their semifinal.
Novak Djokovic vs Daniil Medvedev
Djokovic leads Medvedev 5-3 so far on tour. In their most recent meeting, Djokovic comprehensively beat Medvedev 7-5 6-2 6-2 in the final at Melbourne Park earlier this year. The Russian has managed to win just one set against Djokovic in their two clashes at the Majors, and he faces a colossal task of upsetting Djokovic in the final on Sunday.
Djokovic finds a similar opponent in Medvedev, who possesses tremendous ball retrieving skills from behind the baseline and amazing court coverage. Two years ago, when Medvedev faced Nadal in the US Open final, he was awed by the occasion and was physically spent. Despite that, he stretched the Spaniard to five sets. But the backdrop is vastly different this time around; the Russian has matured and come a long way since then. Among the two, Medvedev has spent far less time on court coming into the final. He is fresh and has all the ingredients to go the distance against the 20-time Major champion this time around.
At the North American hard-court season so far, Medvedev has lost just one match. He seems to be better placed to take on Djokovic than he was in the final in Melbourne. The Russian is relentless off both the wings and possesses an effective service that can trouble even the best returner like Djokovic.
However, having said that, en route to the final Medvedev hasn’t faced a Top 10 player, let alone the World No.1. That can potentially backfire for the Russian against a clutch player like Djokovic in the title clash.
Exceptional serving is one of the keys for Medvedev if he fancies upsetting the Serb. The Russian must aim to mix things up by occasionally serving and volleying and approaching the net whenever the opportunity presents to keep the points shorter in a bid to unsettle Djokovic. While the Russian has a tremendous game from behind the baseline, the mid-court game might be the difference, especially from the Russian’s perspective. The Russian had struggled in his mid-court game in the clutch moments against Nadal when he lost in the final in 2019. He cannot afford to repeat the same mistakes against someone like Djokovic, who always finds a way to elevate his game when it matters most.
As Zverev found out the hard way, taking down the incredible Serb in five sets is an altogether different proposition and Medvedev needs to be patient and cannot afford even a slight let-off in intensity if he fancies downing the Serb to record his maiden Major title triumph.
Djokovic in the pursuit of becoming “King of the World”
Djokovic is chasing history and will be under enormous pressure coming into this match. But, as he has shown throughout his career, the Serb relishes moments like these, and one expects him to get over the line against Medvedev on Sunday.
The 34-year-old Serb starts as an overwhelming favorite. Considering what is at stake, Medvedev is certainly an underdog. Beating Djokovic at a Grand Slam has been the biggest challenge of 2021 as far as men’s tennis is concerned. Medvedev has already lost two Slam finals and will certainly feel some pressure as he prepares to embrace another.
Can Djokovic surpass his final hurdle to complete a truly remarkable Grand Slam season by claiming his 21st Major? Or will Medvedev, playing the match of his life, have the heart to deny Djokovic his date with the destiny?
Let the action get underway in perhaps the most significant match of this year’s Grand Slam season as the top two seeds lock horns at the iconic Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday!
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