Daniil Medvedev is just one set from winning his first major title, leading Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-4 in the US Open final. The Russian is trying to become the third man from his country — joining Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin — to lift a major singles trophy.
If the second seed springs the upset, he will halt Djokovic’s historic chase to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to complete the Grand Slam. The 20-time major champion is also trying to break a tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most major titles in history.
“No matter the score, I’m just going to turn up the heat,” Medvedev said after his semi-final win against Felix Auger-Aliassime. He has certainly done that.
From 28 major matches this year, Djokovic lost the first set 11 times, including in five consecutive matches from the third round on at Flushing Meadows. But this is just the third time this year he has faced a two-set deficit, most recently doing so against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Roland Garros final. Djokovic has rallied from two sets down six times in his career.
But the World No. 1 has appeared frustrated and flummoxed in what he said on Friday is, “arguably the most important one of my career, maybe”. After letting slip opportunities to break his opponent’s serve in his first two return games of the second set – including after leading 0/40 in his first return game – the Serbian obliterated his racquet.
That did not put off Medvedev, who has let slip a two-set lead at a major just once, in the first round at Roland Garros in 2019.
Match Stats – Djokovic vs Medvedev (Through Set 2)
|Stat||Novak Djokovic||Daniil Medvedev|
|1st-Serve Pts Won||88% (28/32)||88% (29/33)|
|2nd-Serve Pts Won||39% (12/31)||63% (15/24)|
|Break Pts Saved||67% (4/6)||– (0/0)|
|Break Pts Converted||– (0/5)||33% (2/6)|
|Net Pts Won||72% (18/25)||57% (4/7)|
Djokovic got off to a slow start in the first game of the match, missing consecutive forehands wide to give the World No. 2 an immediate service break. That was all Medvedev needed to speed through the opener in 36 minutes, during which he put on an impressive serving display.
The recent Toronto titlist, who has won 14 of his past 15 matches, saw 59 per cent of his serves go unreturned by Djokovic, who is widely considered one of the best returners in history. The Serbian began to find his range from the baseline later in the set, but was unable to bother the Russian, who has dropped just one set in the tournament. Medvedev won all 15 of his first-serve points in the opener.
Sealed with an ace and a fist pump 💪
Djokovic looked to quickly seize the momentum at the start of the second set, putting more returns in play to take a 0/40 advantage. The 85-time tour-level titlist was unable to convert though, missing a neutral backhand slice into the net on his last opportunity of the game.
The Serbian earned two more chances in his next return game. But Medvedev showed no fear, hitting a massive backhand down the line off his back foot to save one and crushing a big serve to save the other, leading to Djokovic’s racquet smash.
Medvedev has shown no nerves in the match, playing stout defence with great depth to force Djokovic to rush his offence. The top seed has frequented the net far more often, while Medvedev has been content to answer the questions Djokovic asks on court.
The Russian has increasingly attempted to gain the support of the pro-Djokovic crowd, who have been respectful of his performance. Before the match began, large groups of Serbian fans stood outside of Arthur Ashe Stadium chanting “Nole! Nole, Nole, Nole! Nole! Nole!” That pro-Djokovic support carried into the stadium as the fans gave the three-time US Open winner a noticeably louder ovation.
The crowd is also littered with celebrities, from the likes of Alec Baldwin, Bradley Cooper, Spike Lee and Brad Pitt to sports stars Henrik Lundqvist, Kim Clijsters and Laver, who are taking in the historic match.