Novak Djokovic is going for more than a Grand Slam title in Sunday’s US Open final, he’s going for a never-seen-before record in what is already a historic career.
The top seed faces second-ranked Daniil Medvedev at Arthur Ashe Stadium in what is the biggest match of a career that has brought him 20 Slam trophies.
A win for the world No 1 will give him the first calendar-year men’s singles Grand Slam since 1969 and a 21st Major, going ahead of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at 20. A win for the world No 1 will make an absolute case for him to be called the greatest player in men’s tennis history.
The 34-year-old Serbian is aware of the momentous occasion, but given his track record, it’s likely not going to weigh him down.
“I’m going to treat this match as it’s my last one because it’s arguably the most important one of my career,” Djokovic said. “It’s going to be a battle against another guy who has been in tremendous form… I know what’s expecting me.”
Djokovic will try to complete the first sweep of US, Australian and French Open and Wimbledon titles in the same year since Rod Laver managed the feat 52 years ago. He also will be chasing his fourth US Open title after 2011, 2015 and 2018.
Djokovic in Grand Slam finals in 2021
|Australian Open,||Hard||Daniil Medvedev||7–5, 6–2, 6–2|
|French Open||Clay||Stefanos Tsitsipas||6–7(6–8), 2–6, 6–3, 6–2, 6–4|
|Wimbledon||Grass||Matteo Berrettini||6–7(4–7), 6–4, 6–4, 6–3|
|US Open, United States||Hard||Daniil Medvedev||Pending|
Australian 83-year-old legend Laver will be in the stands to see if Djokovic can finish the fourth Slam in men’s history after American Don Budge in 1938 and Laver in 1962 and 1969. The last singles Slam overall was by Steffi Graf in 1988, who also won the Olympic gold that year.
It’s just one of the many big numbers for the 34-year-old.
Djokovic has won 27 consecutive Slam matches, three shy of his all-time record streak from 2015 and 2016, when he won all four major titles in a row across the two years. He can now do it in a year. The oldest US Open finalist since Andre Agassi at 35 in 2005, would be the oldest US Open champion since Ken Rosewall at 35 in 1970. A smaller record but Djokovic has also matched Federer’s all-time record of 31 men’s Slam final appearances.
Djokovic is 20-10 in Slam finals and leads Medvedev 5-3 in their career rivalry. They last met in the Australian Open final earlier this year, where the Serb won in straight sets.
Djokovic leads 5-3
2017 Davis Cup (SRB) Hard RR Djokovic 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 1-0, retired
2017 Eastbourne Grass SF Djokovic 6-4, 6-4
2019 Australian Open Hard R16 Djokovic 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-3
2019 Monte Carlo Clay QF Medvedev 6-3, 4-6, 6-2
2019 Cincinnati Hard SF Medvedev 3-6, 6-3, 6-3
2020 ATP Cup (AUS) Hard RR Djokovic 6-1, 5-7, 6-4
2020 ATP Finals (GBR) Hard RR Medvedev 6-3, 6-3
2021 Australian Open Hard F Djokovic 7-5, 6-2, 6-2
The 25-year-old Medvedev will be playing his third Major final, having lost to Nadal in the 2019 US Open. He is now richer in experience but beating Djokovic in a Grand Slam final is not as easy a task as his Melbourne loss showed.
“I always give my best, but I feel like I didn’t leave my heart on the court in Melbourne. There was something not turning up this match. That’s what I’m going to try to do on Arthur Ashe. No matter the score, I’m just going to turn up the heat and try to do my best,” Medvedev said.
Medvedev has dropped only one set in the Flushing Meadows fortnight, saving him valuable energy for the grind to come. He has spent 11 hours and 51 minutes on court in his six triumphs.
By contrast, Djokovic has had just one straight-set victory, against Tallon Griekspoor. But the world No 1 is at a level where he doesn’t have to play at his absolute best to win best-of-five matches; he can raise his game at will.
Paths to the men’s final (x denotes seed):
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1)
RD128: bt Holger Rune (DEN) 6-1, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-1
RD64: bt Tallon Griekspoor (NED) 6-2, 6-3, 6-2
RD32: bt Kei Nishikori (JPN) 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-3, 6-2
RD16: bt Jenson Brooksby (USA) 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2
QF: bt Matteo Berrettini (ITA x6) 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3
SF: bt Alexander Zverev (GER x4) 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2
Daniil Medvedev (RUS x2)
RD128: bt Richard Gasquet (FRA) 6-4, 6-3, 6-1
RD64: bt Dominik Koepfer (GER) 6-4, 6-1, 6-2
RD32: bt Pablo Andujar (ESP) 6-0, 6-4, 6-3
RD16: bt Daniel Evans (GBR x24) 6-3, 6-4, 6-3
QF: bt Botic Van de Zandschulp (NED) 6-3, 6-0, 4-6, 7-5
SF: bt Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN x12) 6-4, 7-5, 6-2
As things stand, Djokovic will be the overwhelming favourite to win a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam but Medvedev won’t go down without a fight this time.
With AFP Inputs