At every grand slam this year, Novak Djokovic has had an opportunity to make history, to stamp his authority on the game as unequivocally its best men’s player, to equal or break another record.
He drew level with Rafael Nadal’s 22 grand slam titles at the Australian Open, pulled clear with a men’s record 23 grand slam titles at the French Open, was defeated by Carlos Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final, and now has another chance to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles in the US Open final on Sunday.
Standing in his way is third seed Daniil Medvedev who stunned Alcaraz in the semifinals and who has already defeated Djokovic in a US Open final before, and in straight sets.
Though Medvedev’s game remains perfectly suited to the fast hard courts, he is expecting Djokovic to be “10 times better than he was that day.”
“Against Novak, it’s the same. He is always better than previous time he plays,” Medvedev said, according to the ATP Tour. “For example, I beat him in the US Open final, he beat me in Bercy in a great match. Carlos beat him at Wimbledon, he beat him in Cincinnati. Novak is going to be his best version on Sunday, and I have to be the best-ever version of myself if I want to try to beat him.”
‘Every final could be the last one’
When Djokovic and Medvedev last played each other in a grand slam final, it was the Russian who upset the odds and thwarted Djokovic’s attempt to win a then record 21st slam and complete the first men’s calendar grand slam – winning the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open in the same year – since Rod Laver in 1969.
Since winning his first-ever grand slam at that US Open in 2021, Medvedev has come close to winning another, taking a two-set lead in the 2022 Australian Open final against Nadal but eventually succumbed to defeat.
“The challenge is that you play a guy who won 23 grand slams and I have only one,” he said, according to the US Open. “When I beat him here (in the 2021 final), I managed to play better than myself, and I need to do it again. There is no other way.”
At 36, Djokovic could become the oldest man to win the US Open singles title in the Open Era, surpassing the record set by Ken Rosewall in 1970.
“Every Grand Slam final could be the last one,” he told reporters ahead of the final. “Ten years ago, I felt like, ‘Hey, I still have quite a few years ahead of me.’ I don’t know how many I have ahead of me now, or how many years where I [can] play four Slams in the whole season. So I am aware of the occasion.”
It will be Djokovic’s 101st match at the US Open, a tournament which he has won three times already in his career, though not since 2018.
‘You want to fight ‘til the end’
Djokovic has had a relatively straightforward run to the final, aside from surviving a scare in the third round when he found himself two sets down against his compatriot Laslo Djere, he has completed every other match in just three sets, minimizing his time on court as he has swept aside the competition.
It marks a remarkable end to a year in which he has reached the final of every grand slam, adding two more titles to his collection, after a 2022 in which he could not compete in Australia or the USA due to his decision to remain unvaccinated against Covid-19.
For Medvedev, playing in the US Open final caps an impressive hard-court season in which he reached five consecutive finals on the surface and won four titles.
His performance against Alcaraz in the semifinals displayed his powerful serve, shotmaking and tenacity, all marking him as a difficult opponent for Djokovic.
“You want to fight ‘til the end, you want to win,” Medvedev said, according to the ATP. “And that’s how you should be in the final of a grand slam.”
How to watch
The final will begin at 4p ET on Sunday, and viewers in the US can watch all the action on ESPN, while Sky Sports will broadcast the matches in the UK.