Tennis fans lose dream US Open final that could be a Djokovic nightmare

(Photo by Amin Mohammad Jamali/Getty Images)
(Photo by Amin Mohammad Jamali/Getty Images) /

Daniil Medvedev has always been a threat to win the 2023 US Open. He won the tournament two years ago in a dominant fashion over Novak Djokovic. This was when Djokovic was still trying to win a calendar Grand Slam. But the Serb didn’t come close to beating the Russian in the 2021 US Open final.

On Friday, Medvedev dispatched top seed Carlos Alcaraz in four sets. No player this year might have played a better first two sets in any match than Medvedev against Alcaraz. Defeating Alcaraz 6-1 in any set is a thing few players can do, yet exactly what Medvedev did in the second set against Alcaraz.

Djokovic had a fairly easy time in his semifinal against upstart Ben Shelton. Shelton has a thunderous serve and it took Djokovic a couple of games to get used to the pace. But Djokovic, who will retake the top ranking on the ATP next week, is still a far better player than Shelton. Plus, the Serb has been to dozens of Grand Slam finals, and Shelton has been to one and his nerves showed.

Novak Djokovic might should be more worried about Medvedev than Alcaraz

Medvedev will have no fear of Djoko, however. He knows he can beat Djoko, especially on a hard court and, more specifically, at the US Open. Medvedev rolled Djoko 6-4 6-4 6-4 in the 2021 final, and the match didn’t even feel that close. Djokovic was never a threat to win the final, and Medvedev looked like he was actually the top-ranked player, not Djoko.

Medvedev and Djokovic have met 14 times since 2-17. Djoko leads the head-to-head 9-5, but he won the first three meetings between the two. Medvedev won four out of the next six matches the two played before Djoko reeled out four straight victories. The last time they played was at the Dubia Open this year and Medvedev won in straight sets.

Maybe more importantly, since the 2021 Australian Open Medvedev and Djoko have met four times on outdoor hard courts and split the matches. Very likely the roof will be open at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday when the two play in the US Open final so we should have another outdoor hard court showdown.

Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic are the two best players overall on the ATP tour currently, but Medvedev is arguably the best player specifically on outdoor hard courts. Medvedev has won 20 titles in his career. Half of those titles have come in outdoor hard court tournaments, and all but two have come on a hard surface. In fact, since 2021, Djokovic has won 14 titles with eight of them coming on hard courts. Medvedev has won 11 titles in that same time span, but nine have come on hard courts.

So while tennis fans probably mostly wanted to see a Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic US Open final, we still got the final we deserved. And very likely Djoko would have had an easier time defeating Alcaraz than Medvedev. (Though saying that, maybe Djoko wins in straight sets on Sunday.)

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