With the US Open on the verge of its dream weekend, Daniil Medvedev messed it all up by doing the typical Medvedev thing.
Defeating defending champion and 20-year-old Carlos Algarz, the 27-year-old Medvedev – the sport’s joyous troll, playfully intelligent and unorthodox baseliner – took a wrench in popular programs to watch. The next chapter in Algarez’s increasingly generational rivalry with Novak Djokovic.
Instead of an epic Algaraz-Djokovic final three weeks ago, the match was a rematch of July’s Wimbledon final, a rematch of their semi-final clash at the French Open in June. Medvedev vs Djokovic Rematch in 2021 US Open Finals
On that day, Medvedev, the Russian of funky strokes, silly one-liners and dead fish victory celebrations, left Djokovic’s quest to become the first man in 50 years to win all four Grand Slam titles in a calendar year. The Serbian champion was unbeaten in three sets.
“Novak is always better than the last time he played,” Medvedev said. “Novak is going to be the best version of himself on Sunday and I have to try to be the best version of myself to beat him.”
On Friday night, Alcaraz, the game’s showstopper at the moment, sustained a head injury from a party accident. Medvedev chased every ball and snapped one of the most dangerous serves of the game all night, matching Algaraz shot for shot and pushing him to the brink of losing his cool in the second set. Algaraz almost threw his racket to the ground, but backed away at the last moment. Medvedev then fought off a third-set comeback attempt from Algaraz in four sets to beat the tournament’s top seed and current world No. 1, 7-6 (3), 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.
“I’m going to change my mind,” Alcaraz said after the tense battle. “I am not mature enough to handle such competition.”
Algaraz had his moments, especially at the start of the third set, when he began to dance across the court and control points by flying into the net to deliver his stinging volleys. He found extra zip in his groundstrokes and hung Medvedev in the head for the first time all night as Algaraz cut the lead in half.
After a bathroom break and costume change, Medvedev rediscovered his early form, evolving once more into a human backboard.
That was his trick in the marathon sixth game of the fourth set that lasted nearly 15 minutes. As he soared toward the net on a second chance to break Algarez’s serve, he fired a backhand return over the Spaniard’s shoelaces. He looked up at the crowd and waved his fingers in the air as he had done all night, a how-to-have-some-love-for-me gesture.
Two games later, he locked up his second win in the men’s semi-final, where durability won out over style. Fingers went up into the air once more. Algaraz has beaten him twice this year. Not on this day, then it’s time to start focusing on the upcoming clash with Djokovic, which is like no other test in the game.
“It’s a mental preparation you want to go to war with,” Medvedev said.
Djokovic has rarely been in better form than in a Grand Slam final, especially recently. He is set to play his fourth this year and has already won two.
“Grand Slams are the biggest goals and objectives for me,” he said on Friday evening. “I set my schedule so that I can perform at my best in these competitions, and that’s what happened this year as well.”
To win the final, Djokovic had to get past 20-year-old Floridian thunderbolt Ben Sheldon. Like Alcaraz, Sheldon took the court at this US Open every time he put on one of its most entertaining performances.
He again became a racket-swinging highlight reel against Djokovic, the kind of tennis every American fan pays homage to in the spirit of “Big” Bill Tilton, or led Sheldon to pursue tennis instead of soccer. A young man.
That second serve was 143 miles per hour, and the kid was tearing across the court with a fearsome forehand. His athleticism to turn solid lobs into fearless, rocking overhands floats back. Those arms fluttering out of his sleeveless shirt, and so does the spirit, as he shouts, “Yes!” Like a kid on the playground every time he scores a big point. On drop volleys that touch lands and spins back toward the net.
Unfortunately for Sheldon, the scoring system in tennis does not award any style points, and in Djokovic he faced not only a 23-time Grand Slam winner and the greatest player of the modern era but also the ultimate coach of tennis tai chi. For years, even more so than his recent dominance, the 36-year-old Djokovic has turned the power and style of flashier and more powerful challengers against them.
Playing in a record 47th Grand Slam semifinal, Djokovic implemented Sheldon’s tactical rebuild that crushed the dreams and good vibes and flash that so many younger players had come to him before. Without using an ounce more energy than necessary, Djokovic dismantled the youngster 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (4) in two-and-a-half hours.
For most of the afternoon, he caught Sheldon’s trap shots from the back of the court like a cheetah chasing his lunch, and took missiles at Sheldon’s serve like catching butterflies in a field in late summer. After Shelton finished hitting a forehand into the net, Djokovic also stole Shelton’s much-talked-about post-match celebration — miming a phone to his ear. Then slam it down before giving the young man an icy handshake.
Sheldon later saw Djokovic’s mimic on video after he left the court. He doesn’t care too much about telling people how to celebrate, he said.
“I think if you win the match, you deserve to do whatever you want,” said Sheldon, who shot Djokovic a glare as he approached the net. “As a child growing up, I’ve always learned that imitation is the truest form of flattery, so that’s all I have to say about that.”
Speaking about the celebration after Sheldon, Djokovic said with a wry smile, “I love Ben’s celebration. I thought it was so original that I copied him.
Now understand, Djokovic appreciates the smallest tennis highlights as much as anyone. Taking the court for the third set with an almost insurmountable – against him – two-set lead, he swung as hard as he could and saw Sheldon’s feather a drop volley. Djokovic gave the Rockets a well-deserved round of applause. Nice game, young man. Moments later, he stepped onto the court and rolled a passing shot to break Sheldon’s serve and enthusiasm once again.
Djokovic did all this in front of a crowd of nearly 24,000 fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium. As a thunderstorm rolled through the area, the roof was closed, and every time Sheldon combined his power, touch, speed and athleticism to come up with a point, you could feel the burst of roars within reach. and touch.
That was never truer than when Sheldon trailed 2-4 in the third set and desperately tried to extend the match. He found himself with a point to break Djokovic’s serve and didn’t disappoint, pulling Djokovic into a wide forehand that produced a brain-wrenching sound. Two games later, in Djokovic’s only error-strewn and poor-serve slump of the day (it happens), he held a break point and all the good vibes.
Then once again, Djokovic froze the moment with his trademark performance — a 124 mph serve that Sheldon couldn’t handle. Order was restored.
There was a little more Sheldon and Djokovic for the packed stadium to enjoy. Sheldon saved a match point to send the third set to a tiebreaker, then stumbled a bit as he went down 5-1. But Djokovic had things to do and his 36th Grand Slam final was right up his alley. When he yanked it, it was his turn to drown out the noise as expected – and hang up the phone.
“I know how much work and dedication and energy I put in to be in this position, so I know I deserve this,” he said. “I always rely on myself, on my own abilities, on my ability as a tennis player, you know on my quality, to be able to deliver when it matters.”