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US Open Preview: Daniil Medvedev vs. Andrey Rublev; Carlos Alcaraz vs. Alexander Zverev
The pair of "close" friends meet in Wednesday's day session ahead of a night cap between the Spaniard and German.
Published Sep 06, 2023
Daniil Medvedev vs. Andrey Rublev
Medvedev won’t say that Rublev is his “best friend” exactly, but he will say he’s “super close” with him. So much so that he made his countryman the godfather of his daughter.
“He’s religious, so that’s important to be a godfather,” Medvedev said of Rublev. “So it was kind of an easy decision.”
Once upon a time, Medvedev dominated his friend on the court. He won their first four matches, including a straight-set quarterfinal at the US Open in 2020. But Rublev broke that streak in 2021, and edged Medvedev again, 9-7 in a third-set tiebreaker, at the ATP Finals last November. Medvedev emphatically righted the ship when they met in the Dubai final in February, winning 6-2, 6-2.
As frustrated as Rublev may be by his 2-5 record against Medvedev, it must pale in comparison to how he feels about his record in Grand Slam quarterfinals. He's 0-8. He lost one at the US Open last year, to Frances Tiafoe, and he has lost two more already this season, at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
Will the ninth time be the charm? Rublev says he was hitting the ball so well in his last match, against Jack Draper, that he doesn’t want to jinx it by talking about it. That’s a good sign. If he can stay in the zone, he has a chance. But the more versatile Medvedev will be much more adept at taking him out of that zone than Draper was. Winner: Medvedev
Carlos Alcaraz vs. Alexander Zverev
A few minutes after winning a four hour, 41 minute match over Jannik Sinner at 1:30 on Tuesday morning, Zverev was asked for his thoughts on facing Alcaraz next. He paused, smiled, paused again, smiled again, and finally said, “I’ll be ready.” He obviously wasn’t quite prepared to think about climbing the Everest of men’s tennis at that hour.
Who can blame him? For all of his apprehension about looking ahead, though, Zverev has a 3-2 record against the ATP No. 1. Granted, Alcaraz tuned him up, 6-1, 6-2 in their only 2023 meeting, in Madrid. But Zverev won their only meeting at a Slam, in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in 2022. Zverev is also much farther along in his comeback now than he was when they played in May.
At the start of this tournament, I picked Zverev to win this quarterfinal. Alcaraz had been all over the map in his previous two tournaments, and while he’s better in best-of-five, an off day seemed highly possible. I had also seen Zverev take some forward strides, including a win over Daniil Medvedev, in Cincinnati.
Now, nearly two weeks after I made that prediction, Alcaraz seems much steadier; he’s dropped just one set so far. And he’ll be by far the fresher player on Wednesday. Alcaraz rolled through a straight-setter on Monday afternoon, hours before Zverev finished his midnight marathon with Sinner.
That said, I won’t go back on my pre-tournament pick. But I wouldn’t necessarily recommend following my lead. Winner: Zverev