US Open 2023: Djokovic vs Medvedev rematch

Two years on from their one-sided US Open final, Novak Djokovic seeks history-defining revenge.

Novak Djokovic & Daniil Medvedev / Finale US Open 2021©Paul Zimmer / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Not many players have a recent edge over Novak Djokovic. Step forward the mercurial and mischievous Daniil Medvedev.

That's right, it's time for a repeat of the 2021 US Open final. That evening in New York, the season-long pressure built to a crescendo for Calendar Grand Slam chasing Djokovic.

It popped and the Serbian, reduced to tears in the closing stages in an emotional outpouring, wilted in contrast to a ruthless showing from Medvedev, who collected his maiden major 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

As soon as the 27-year-old finished outmanoeuvring defending champion Carlos Alcaraz on Friday night, the two-year flashbacks began.

"I think the only way I can use it is thinking that Novak, when he loses, he's never the same after," suggested the five-time major finalist Medvedev.

"For example, I beat him US Open final; he beat me at the Rolex Paris Masters in a great match. Carlos beat him Wimbledon; he beat him in Cincinnati.

Daniil Medvedev / Demi-finales US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

"So he's different. It's just a different mentality. That's why he has 23 Grand Slams, whatever Masters 1000s, weeks at No. 1. So I have to use it knowing that he's going to be 10 times better than he was that day. 

"And I have to be, if I want to still beat him, 10 times better than I was that day. That's what I'm going to try to do."

That's the Djokovic aura for you.

However, Medvedev is the master at altering a narrative. As well as dissolving Djokovic's 2021 hopes, the world No. 3 swatted aside the talk of a No.1 vs No.2 final between Alcaraz and Djokovic this fortnight.

Medvedev's 2023 hard-court numbers are pretty spectacular too. He's the ATP Tour leader with 38 victories, alongside only five losses. Earlier this season the 27-year-old booked into five consecutive hard-court finals with a 24-1 record to lift four of those trophies.

The self-described hard-court specialist knows he needs another showstopping performance on Sunday night to flip the script once again, to deny Djokovic an all-time record-tying 24th major.

"I'm going to do all the same," stated Medvedev, sticking to his tried and test routines in New York.  

"It's just the mental preparation where you're, like, you want to fight till the end, you wa­­nt to win, and that's how you should be in the final of a Grand Slam."

Novak personifying defiance

Three-time US Open champion Djokovic has spent his career jostling for generational milestones, he's also attuned to playing the villain, tearing up scripts in pursuit of his astonishing, history-defining success.

He's been almost snarly at Flushing Meadows, competing with a predator on the hunt kind of persona.

The 36-year-old has been batting off challengers all season, particularly on the hard courts, where he has compiled a standout 26-1 total on the surface. His sole defeat, you guessed it, in the Dubai semi-finals 6-4, 6-4 to Medvedev.

Despite that recent edge, Djokovic is undeterred and is cherishing another opportunity to re-write the Grand Slam Roll of Honour.

"Overall the tournament so far has been great. I have been performing very well. Most of the matches went straight sets except one where I had to come back from two sets to love down," mused Djokovic, into a 10th US Open final.

"Other than that, the performance since Cincinnati first round to now, to the finals have been really, really good.

"So age is just a number, that phrase is resonating at the moment with me… At 36, every Grand Slam final could be the last one.

"Of course I am aware of the occasion. But I try to approach Sunday's match as basically any other match with intention to win. Knowing that it's going to be the toughest challenge, without a doubt, not just because it's a final but also because the last time I faced him in a Grand Slam final I lost, here in '21."

Clearly the 2021 heartbreak at Flushing Meadows still lingers for the Serbian. It's one of the few times fiercely-defiant Djokovic has unravelled, emotionally and physically.

"I don't have much time nor do I allow myself to think about the history too much in this sense, because when I did that in the past, like, '21 finals here I was maybe overwhelmed with the occasion and the opportunity and I underperformed," admitted the world No.2.

"So I don't want this to happen again, and I'll try to just focus on what needs to be done and tactically prepare myself for that match… I like my chances."

Their form is leading the pack, their hard-court match tallies promise an endless stream of energy-zapping rallies. Djokovic has the aura, has the record books propping up his elastic, age-defining body. On the other hand, Medvedev has the recent edge and US Open flashback to call upon.

Clear the diary and settle in on Sunday, you won't want to miss a ball.

Novak Djokovic & Daniil Medvedev / Finale US Open 2021©Paul Zimmer / FFT