Two years ago, Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev met in the US Open final — and Medvedev took the title. It’s his only Grand Slam to date — will he win another one on Sunday? Or will Djokovic capture his 24th major, setting the overall record of the Open era?
Who will win? We asked our experts:
What can Djokovic do to defeat Medvedev?
Alexandra Stevenson: Djokovic just has to be Djokovic. If he brings a high percentage of first serves and a solid baseline game, he beats Medvedev with his agility and over-the-top mental focus. Djokovic’s team will come up with every tactic to beat Medvedev — take a look at previous matchups.
Grand Slam No. 24 is for sure in Djokovic’s head, but this time, he is treating the match with a focus on one thing: Playing his game. His movement, twists and turns should be studied by junior players. His defense is clearly the best in the field.
With the NFL and college football starting, it’s timely to compare Djokovic to a quarterback. He knows the rhythm of the court with his aggressive groundstrokes. Think scrambling Patrick Mahomes. And Djokovic is using the net — something we’ve seen more of in the men’s game in 2023 — a throwback to the Pete Sampras era.
Rennae Stubbs: Use his vast experience in these moments.
Alyssa Roenigk: Djokovic didn’t get the Wimbledon rematch tennis fans wanted, but another shot at Medvedev in the US Open final isn’t a bad consolation. Two years ago, Medvedev stopped Djokovic’s run at the calendar-year Grand Slam. In that match, Djokovic converted only 17% of his break-point opportunities and struggled to return Medvedev’s serve.
Here, his return game has been stellar. He held big-serving Ben Shelton to just five aces and broke him five times in their semifinal, and he’ll need to do the same on Sunday. Djokovic knows he might not have many more chances to add to his 23 major titles.
D’Arcy Maine: After his win Friday over Shelton, Djokovic said he had allowed himself to get “overwhelmed with the occasion and the opportunity” during the 2021 US Open with both the calendar-year Grand Slam and a then-record-breaking 21st major title on the line. Now playing the same opponent that defeated him in that very final, and with another record up for grabs, Djokovic will need to do everything he can to remain focused simply on the match and nothing else.
Having beaten Medvedev in four of their five meetings since that 2021 final, Djokovic knows he has the game and the tactics to beat him, so it might just come down to his mental toughness when the stakes are highest.
Bill Connelly: Conjure the old Djokovic return. His return prowess has slipped ever so slightly in recent years — after winning 42-43% of his return points basically every year through 2021, he’s been at 41% over the past couple of years. That seems like a tiny difference, but tennis has tiny margins. And his matches with Medvedev have been almost entirely driven by how well Medvedev is winning his serve. When Djokovic was dominating the early stages of this rivalry, he was routinely winning over 40% of return points against Medvedev. But he won only 29% in their 2021 US Open meeting, and he won only 34% in his loss to Medvedev in Dubai this year. Medvedev served brilliantly in his win over Carlos Alcaraz in Friday’s semifinal. Djokovic will have to counter that.
What can Medvedev do to defeat Djokovic?
Stevenson: Medvedev has to bring his first serve, like he did against Alcaraz. And continue to hit big from the baseline. He has an uncanny ability to change things up — and win the point. However, it’s unsettling to see him return serve so far, far, far behind the baseline.
Overall, he’s borrowed a look from the women’s game: consistency. A quiet warrior in this Grand Slam. His mental focus is solid as a rock, and he has simplicity in his game.
Stubbs: He has to serve at his best, try and get free points in his serve and then try his best to take his chances in the return games.
Roenigk: In 36 Grand Slam finals over 16 years (23 of which Djokovic won), only six men managed to beat Djokovic, and only three — Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka — did it more than once. Sunday will be no easy lift for Medvedev. Against Alcaraz, the Russian said he played “12 out of 10” and “better than myself” to beat the young Spaniard. He will need to raise that level to 13 against Djokovic, who hasn’t dropped a set since the third round.
Maine: Medvedev thrives in the spoiler role, and feeding off of the energy of the crowd. He’s been in this exact position before and he knows what he needs to do. And he even has a more recent match to turn to when crafting a game-plan for Sunday. During their last meeting in Dubai in March, Medvedev ended Djokovic’s perfect start to the season with his combination of stellar movement, powerful ball striking, minimal errors and by capitalizing on Djokovic’s mistakes. If he can replicate that strategy, and stay as focused and composed as he has throughout the tournament, he has a real chance of winning his second US Open title.
Connelly: Be impenetrable. When he beat Djokovic in Dubai in February, Medvedev’s serve was huge and accurate, and perhaps more importantly, he made just seven unforced errors in 124 points (6% of points). When he beat Alcaraz on Friday night, he made 32 errors in 262 (12%). At his best, Medvedev plays the human-backboard role to perfection, parking far behind the baseline but returning everything his opponent throws at him with extreme depth and pace. He completely defines the match. He’s painfully annoying for his opponent, in other words. Djokovic said the moment got to him when he lost to Medvedev at the 2021 US Open, but Medvedev gave him absolutely nothing, too.
Who will win?
Stevenson: I’ve had Djokovic winning from the beginning. He’ll get his No. 24, if the Djokovic tactical game is firing big on Arthur Ashe. Djokovic!
Stubbs: Medvedev. I think he feels forgotten this year and his best surface is this one in NYC. I also think he’s been tested throughout this tournament and he knows he can best Djokovic in this match.
Roenigk: Djokovic hasn’t lost back-to-back Grand Slam finals since a stretch between 2013 and 2014 when he finished runner-up at Wimbledon (Murray), the US Open (Nadal) and the French Open (Nadal). He is a different player a decade later and, unlike 2021, will be ready to face the best version of Medvedev on Sunday.
Maine: Having witnessed in person Medvedev’s absolute dismantling of Djokovic in that 2021 US Open final and spoiling his bid for the calendar-year Slam, I feel safe in saying: anything is possible on Sunday. But Djokovic, who said he didn’t know how many more Grand Slam finals he would get to play in when talking to the media Friday, will do everything in his power to not let this opportunity for major title No. 24 slip away. Djokovic in four.
Connelly: It can feel at times that Alcaraz and Djokovic have distanced themselves a bit, but Friday night was a reminder that when Medvedev is at his best, he is still more than capable of dictating matches and playing like the best player in the world. I’m picking Djokovic, because when you pick Djokovic you’re almost always right. But Medvedev was so sharp on Friday, I’m going to say it takes Djokovic a full five sets to get this one done.