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Daniil Medvedev solves Carlos Alcaraz, sets Novak Djokovic rematch in US Open final
The 2021 champion edged past the 2022 champion with an emphatic 7-6 (3), 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory under the closed roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Published Sep 09, 2023
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The 2021 champion Daniil Medvedev ended 2022 champion Carlos Alcaraz’s title defense in emphatic fashion on Friday evening, putting on a tactical masterclass to complete a 7-6 (3), 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory under the closed roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Medvedev, who has thoroughly enjoyed his role as the spoiler in Flushing Meadows, once again played the part to perfection as he charged into this third career US Open final—where 23-time major champion Novak Djokovic awaits on Sunday.
Having already crashed the ‘dream final’ between Djokovic and Alcaraz, the Russian player now bids to derail Djokovic’s quest for a fourth US Open title, and record a statement victory against the ATP Tour’s incoming world No. 1 before he ascends to the top of the rankings on Monday.
"The challenge is to play a guy who won 23 Grand Slams and I have only one," Medvedev said during his on-court interview. "When I beat him here, I managed to play better than myself and I need to do it again. There is no other way."
It will be Medvedev and Djokovic’s third meeting of the year—they split the previous meetings 1-1—and their third time facing each other in a Grand Slam final. Those matches, at the 2021 Australian Open and 2021 US Open, were also split 1-1, with Djokovic winning in Melbourne and Medvedev later thwarting the Serbian’s shot at the calendar Grand Slam in New York.
To get there, Medvedev had to exorcize some emotional baggage in Queens as he faced down Alcaraz—the player who has had his number all year long. Coming into their semifinal meeting, Medvedev had been unable to take a set off the Spaniard in either of their previous two matches this year, including a lopsided 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 defeat at Wimbledon.
The No. 3 seed has been asked by press about Alcaraz nonstop since he first touched down in the city—either about their potential rematch, or about the possible US Open final between Alcaraz and Djokovic. Medvedev said he didn’t mind those questions, but issued an ominous warning to anyone who dared write him out of the conversation altogether:
"Everyone is talking about an Alcaraz vs. Djokovic final, that doesn't irritate me at all. Their matches are great for tennis,” Medvedev acknowledged during a pre-tournament press conference.
“I do think we [should] still talk about me. The goal is, after this US Open, that we talk about me.”
He’s certainly made the case for himself throughout this fortnight, moving comfortably through the early rounds before rallying from a set down against No. 13 seed Alex de Minaur—another player who had won their previous two meetings—in the fourth round. A rock-solid performance against countryman Andrey Rublev in brutally hot conditions sent him into the semifinals.
But his biggest test by far came in the form of 20-year-old Alcaraz, who can hit every shot in the book and disrupt the rhythm of the normally defense-minded Medvedev. Alcaraz was sticking to his tried-and-true gameplan, keeping Medvedev on the run and then pulling him up to the net for a drop shot or passing shot winner.
Medvedev had to overcome a horror start after hitting three double faults in his opening service game and struggling to connect with his first serve. But once he found his footing, he dialed up the aggression and started venturing up on the net on his own. Medvedev even won 56 percent of points there (22/39)—still fewer overall than Alcaraz’s 77 percent (54/70)—sending a strong message that he was willing to go toe-to-toe, and shot for shot, with the top seed.
After dropping the first two sets, Alcaraz was swinging freely once again and sending the crowd on Ashe to their feet with a showcase of his signature, highlight-reel tennis. But late in the fourth set, Medvedev’s deep return position started to cause Alcaraz problems—at one point, cameras caught Alcaraz’s coach Juan Carlos Ferrero selecting each of his player’s first serve spots via hand signs that seemed like they’d be more at home on Citi Field instead of Arthur Ashe Stadium.
But even with the added guidance—all perfectly legal under the tours’ on-court coaching rules—there’s no accounting for the wildcard that is Medvedev. After claiming the decisive break of serve for 4-2 after a lengthy battle, the Russian faced three break points as he faced an even tougher battle to serve it out, double faults creeping back into his game, before finally closing out the victory on his fourth match point.
For Alcaraz, the defeat also proves that the US Open trophy is the toughest Grand Slam to hold onto: The 20-year-old Spaniard was trying to become the first player to defend his title in Flushing Meadows since Roger Federer's incredible five-peat in 2004-2008.