Novak Djokovic, the No. 1-ranked males’s participant on the planet, has an opportunity to make historical past: full the calendar-year Grand Slam and break a tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who even have 20 main titles, for probably the most in males’s tennis historical past.
Daniil Medvedev can spoil Djokovic’s bid to develop into the primary man to win all 4 majors — the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open — in the identical 12 months.
Who comes out on prime in Sunday’s US Open males’s closing? Our specialists break down the magnitude of Djokovic’s run, what makes him so good at 34 years outdated and what the 25-year-old Medvedev must do to tug off the upset.
Djokovic is historical past and has wavered at occasions within the event, particularly in first units. What weaknesses/areas of alternative would possibly exist that Medvedev may benefit from?
Brad Gilbert: Yellow card for stupidity of query. He is by no means wavered, and there are not any weaknesses in his recreation than his overhead. That is a yellow-card query for even saying that he wavered. It is best-of-five for a purpose, and he’s nice at navigating that. There’s nothing that Medvedev can benefit from, however it’s key for him, if he has any probability, to win the primary set and serve super.
Invoice Connelly: His return deserted him towards Alexander Zverev within the semis, however Djokovic’s greatest challenge has been apparent: He has taken some haymakers out of the gate. He has dropped six units on this event, and he has dropped the primary set in 4 straight matches. He was too dominant from the second set on towards Kei Nishikori, Jenson Brooksby and Matteo Berrettini, however dropping the primary set to Zverev may have value him dearly had he not eked out an enormous, tight third set. Medvedev is greater than adequate to take two of the ultimate 4 units if he cashes in on the primary.
Alexandra Stevenson: First. I believe Djokovic wavers in first units as a result of he is measuring his opponent — the hit of the ball, the rhythm of the court docket. Certainly, shedding a primary set could be thought of a possibility for Medvedev. Search for Djokovic’s serve movement. Does he look sturdy? When he is pushed again, generally he would not transfer by way of the forehand and he will get caught along with his hit within the web.
The weak point for Medvedev to assault? Go at Djokovic’s all-court consistency. Each sample. Each ball. Break him down. Can Medvedev get Djokovic fascinated with his forehand? Djokovic has proven that his opponents put on down by way of their bodily prowess on court docket. Like Zverev.
Rennae Stubbs: That Djokovic is just not invincible. I believe Medvedev would have taken some confidence in realizing Djokovic has proven vulnerability all through, however he additionally understands nobody is nearly as good as Djokovic over 5 units. His focus can be squarely on not letting up if he will get a lead.
Aishwarya Kumar: Throughout the semifinals Zverev examined Djokovic, operating him all around the court docket, significantly within the third and the fourth units. The match noticed a few of the longest rallies of the event, and Djokovic, who by no means appears to be like drained, confirmed indicators of slight weariness. If Medvedev is ready to transfer him across the court docket and problem him to maintain his serve — and constantly at that — he would possibly be capable of take a set and put some stress on the world No. 1.
Ohm Youngmisuk: Djokovic raised his stage of play when he needed to, particularly within the fifth set towards Zverev. However he has given his opponents alternatives. Nobody has been capable of take benefit but. Medvedev has to take this from Djokovic. He’ll need to do extra than simply get every little thing again towards Djokovic. He should be the aggressor. And he additionally has to hope that the stress of attempting to make historical past may also put on on Djokovic too.
D’Arcy Maine: It has to start out with benefiting from Djokovic’s current development of gradual begins and stealing the primary set. Past that, Djokovic has actually proved troublesome, if not unimaginable, to beat. Nonetheless, Medvedev has their conflict on the 2020 ATP Finals to look to for steering as nicely. In that match, he defeated the world No. 1 with a staggering defensive show and robust serving, basically beating Djokovic at his personal recreation. The stakes are a lot increased this time round, and it is a best-of-five match, however on that day Medvedev had a solution for every little thing Djokovic tried. Attempting to duplicate that recreation plan may be his greatest hope.
Daniil Medvedev advances to the lads’s closing of the US Open with a straight-set victory over Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Medvedev has virtually quietly made the ultimate. What has been the important thing to his success?
Gilbert: He has been serving nice all event and has dropped just one set. A quick begin may also be key for Medvedev.
Connelly: He has been serving like loopy. The serve has improved total this 12 months, and his numbers in these later rounds have been wild. Medvedev has gained not less than 80% of his first-serve factors in 5 of six matches — to place that in perspective, John Isner is barely at 79% for the 12 months, Reilly Opelka 77% — and during the last three rounds he is landed an particularly excessive share of his first serves in. Clearly these numbers will get the stiffest attainable check towards Djokovic: Medvedev gained solely 69% of his first-serve factors of their Australian Open closing assembly, however mixed along with his rising willingness to come back to the online, Medvedev’s service recreation total has improved considerably since Melbourne.
Stevenson: His motion. Individuals can criticize the place Medvedev stands — approach behind the court docket — however have a look at the place he finally ends up. His protection of the court docket has introduced him to the ultimate. He will be a participant attempting to bust open a no-hitter ball recreation, solely this time, it is the calendar-year Grand Slam.
Stubbs: Believing in himself and his capacity to play on arduous court docket. As a result of his recreation transfers so nicely to this floor, I believe he now believes he belongs within the closing.
Kumar: Whereas all eyes had been on Djokovic, after which the teens making history at the US Open, Medvedev has dominated his finish of the draw, dropping only one set in your complete event on his solution to the ultimate. The important thing to his success: his serve. He has a stellar first and second serve, and he hardly ever will get damaged. He additionally will get to each ball, which leaves numerous his opponents scrambling to select up the items. This, mixed along with his capacity to maintain his stage up all through a match, has given him the quiet confidence and the sting to get to his second US Open closing and his second Grand Slam closing of the 12 months.
Youngmisuk: Medvedev is sort of a robotic. He simply grinds and grinds and is sort of a ball machine. His consistency is a weapon. However he has additionally had a comparatively simple path right here, going through simply two double-digit seeds on his solution to the ultimate. He’ll want contemporary legs towards Djokovic.
Maine: Contemplating how a lot consideration Medvedev obtained throughout his 2019 run to the ultimate, it is virtually stunning to see how underneath the radar he’s this time round. However make no mistake — that is by design. He stated on Friday he was completely satisfied to have had such a “clean” event so far. He has dropped only one set so far, and by getting the job completed effectively every match, and with no fireworks or fan interactions, he has been capable of merely concentrate on enjoying his unbelievable tennis.
Maybe nothing higher exemplifies his locked-in demeanor than the second set of his match towards Felix Auger-Aliassime. Down 5-2 within the second set, and going through two set factors at 5-4, Medvedev used his expertise to construct a exceptional comeback to take the set, 7-5, and win the match in straight units.
Novak Djokovic beats Alexander Zverev in 5 units to make the ultimate on the US Open.
What’s the blueprint Djokovic ought to comply with to beat Medvedev?
Gilbert: There is no such thing as a blueprint. When folks ask these questions — each participant performs otherwise. Djokovic is 2-0 head-to-head in best-of-five, and so they’re 3-3 in each different match. So, the truth that it is a best-of-five is a big benefit to Djokovic.
Connelly: The body-blow blueprint is the very best card Djokovic nonetheless has to play. His greatest remaining benefit over the rising crop in males’s tennis is his pure best-of-five endurance. It saved him towards Tsitsipas within the French Open closing, and it saved him towards Zverev on Friday night time. Medvedev’s hard-court recreation is nearly as good or higher than Djokovic’s at this level — he has gained the next share of each service and return factors than Djokovic on arduous courts during the last 12 months — however Djokovic’s lungs and best-of-five aura have been an excessive amount of for anybody to beat.
Stevenson: Djokovic is following his personal blueprint. He is aware of Medvedev. Djokovic will concentrate on what introduced him to the ultimate: his psychological acumen, his all-court technical consistency and his purposeful bodily being on the court docket. If Djokovic brings these three to Arthur Ashe, he’ll make historical past.
Stubbs: His personal. Nobody is aware of the best way to win in these moments greater than anybody within the historical past of males’s tennis.
Kumar: Identical as all the time: Put on Medvedev down. Get him operating early on within the match. After which break him when he is drained and might’t sustain. Easy.
Youngmisuk: Djokovic simply has to play his recreation, block out the stress of constructing historical past and do what he does greatest: get each ball, put on down his opponent and impose his will. If he performs his recreation as much as his regular stage and would not let nerves or the second get the very best of him, he ought to be hoisting No. 21 on the finish of the day.
Maine: Djokovic fully dismantled the red-hot Medvedev within the Australian Open closing in February, and that is as custom-made of a blueprint as he’ll discover heading into Sunday. He discovered a solution to disrupt Medvedev’s rhythm with quite a lot of pictures and outlasted him within the lengthy rallies. Maybe most significantly, Djokovic saved his cool all through and by no means appeared fazed. If he can repeat that efficiency, this may very well be one other fast afternoon.
What has been probably the most spectacular a part of Djokovic’s run by way of this season?
Gilbert: His resilience. His problem-solving. His willingness to adapt his recreation when he must.
Connelly: Actually, probably the most spectacular half is that he hasn’t been at his most spectacular. In each of his earlier two unbelievable runs — successful 4 of 5 Slams in 2011-12, successful 5 of six in 2015-16 — he was extra dominant from level to level than he’s now. This has been tougher, and he has discovered a solution to constantly survive and advance.
Stevenson: Of the various spectacular moments within the Djokovic season, I believe it’s the ups and downs of enjoying skilled tennis throughout a pandemic, testing optimistic for COVID-19, preventing for political change on the ATP Tour, standing up for lower-ranked gamers, engaged on altering his “villain” moniker, successful when it mattered, understanding historical past and embracing it for the world to see. Djokovic can look to the president’s field and see Rod Laver, who gained the calendar-year Grand Slam twice (in 1962 and 1969). Now that’s spectacular.
Stubbs: All the things! He’s a psychological and bodily large.
Kumar: His resilience. Everyone knows how final 12 months ended for him. He was defaulted from the US Open after he hit a girl line decide with a ball towards the top of the primary set within the fourth-round match towards Pablo Carreno Busta. For him to take a step again, calibrate and have this virtually excellent 12 months of tennis — he’s 27-0 in Grand Slams this 12 months — is sort of an accomplishment.
Youngmisuk: He is relentlessness. Outdoors of the Olympic meltdown, Djokovic simply retains grinding down his opponents. Maybe much more spectacular is how he has managed to maintain successful with the added weight and stress of constructing historical past.
Maine: Having witnessed his meltdown in Tokyo firsthand, I am most amazed by what he has been capable of do in New York after struggling such a disappointment on the Olympics. He was not shy about his need for the Golden Slam however left the Video games empty-handed and along with his fame considerably broken as a consequence of his unsavory perspective throughout the bronze-medal match and after.
He then got here again to the US Open — from which he had defaulted final 12 months — and has been capable of notch spectacular win after spectacular win and preserve his composure, regardless of the rising stress and a bizarre development of shedding the opening set up to now 4 matches. It has been fairly the emotional turnaround.
Honorable point out: His semifinal win over Nadal at Roland Garros to safe his spot within the French Open closing. To beat the King of Clay — the best to ever play on the floor — in Paris in 4 units was the stuff of legend.
Prediction time: Who will win and why?
Gilbert: I’ve wished to see historical past since we began fascinated with this quite a bit, and I hate to even speak about an ideal recreation, as a result of that is what it’s. It is an ideal recreation and it is a jinx to speak about an ideal recreation, however Djokovic goes to win this match, most probably in 4 units. Would not even be shocked if it was straight units like in Australia.
Connelly: Within the “Djokovic vs. the sector” competitors, I have been selecting the sector for the final two weeks. He needed to overcome respectable odds and stiff competitors simply to get thus far. However he is right here. Medvedev is 3-5 lifetime towards Djokovic and is in unbelievable kind, however I am by way of selecting towards Djokovic. He wins in 4.
Stevenson: I’ve to consider what Djokovic stated post-match after Zverev to Patrick McEnroe: “I’ll play this [final] prefer it’s the final match of my profession.”
And when Djokovic sits down on the changeover, all the time staring straight forward, suppose Kevin Costner in “For Love of the Sport,” on the bench, by himself. After which he pitches an ideal recreation. Djokovic has been mentally excellent. Djokovic wins, as a result of he is that good.
Stubbs: Djokovic in 5.
Kumar: Djokovic in three. Djokovic has not misplaced a Grand Slam match — and so they’re performed two on the Australian Open — to Medvedev. On the 2021 Australian Open, it took him underneath 2 hours to win his first Grand Slam of the 12 months, beating Medvedev in straight units (7-5, 6-2, 6-2). He is in the very best type of his life, and Medvedev is just not going to pose any new threats to him within the closing of what may very well be the very best second of his profession.
It has been 52 years because the final man (Rod Laver) gained a calendar-year slam. And on Sunday, Djokovic is bound to affix that membership.
Youngmisuk: We are going to see one thing that has by no means been completed in males’s tennis. Barring an epic meltdown, Djokovic will make historical past, win his twenty first main and full the calendar-year Grand Slam as nicely.
Maine: Medvedev’s time is coming, but it surely’s not this weekend. Djokovic finds his approach into tennis immortality by finishing the Grand Slam and successful males’s-record-breaking No. 21 in 4 units. He has confirmed that regardless of how robust the opponent, he all the time has just a bit bit extra. With a lot on the road on Sunday, he is not going to let this elusive alternative slip by.