Medvedev Ousts Alcaraz, Sets Djokovic US Open Final Rematch
Daniil Medvedev reminded the world on Friday evening that when he is at his best, he has the game to beat anyone on the planet. The third seed ousted defending champion Carlos Alcaraz 7-6(3), 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the US Open final.
The 27-year-old set a rematch of the 2021 Flushing Meadows final against Novak Djokovic. Two years ago, Medvedev stunned Djokovic and denied the Serbian his dream of winning all four majors in the same season. On Sunday, he will try to keep Djokovic from securing a record-extending 24th Slam title.
"The challenge is to play a guy who won 23 Grand Slams and I have only one," Medvedev said in 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."
Medvedev explained after his quarter-final win over Andrey Rublev that he needed an "11 out of 10" performance to defeat Alcaraz, and that is what he accomplished, saving eight of the nine break points he faced to triumph after three hours and 18 minutes and reach his third championship clash in New York.
"I said I needed to play 11 out of 10. I played 12 out of 10, except the third set," Medvedev said. "That's the only way. I don't know if he's still 20 or 21, but [he is] so young, already two Grand Slams, World No. 1 for many weeks. It's honestly just pretty unbelievable and I think nobody has done it before him. To beat him, you need to be better than yourself and I managed to do it."
Medvedev entered the semi-finals having lost his past two Lexus ATP Head2Head meetings against Alcaraz this season. The Spaniard won all five sets they played in those clashes and did not lose more than three games in any of those sets.
But that did not seem to bother Medvedev, who produced a nearly flawless performance inside Arthur Ashe Stadium and kept his opponent from earning the first two-set comeback of his career. Alcaraz is 9-1 in five-setters and 5-0 at Flushing Meadows, but the 20-year-old was unable to push it into a deciding set against Medvedev, who is 4-9 in fifth sets.
It had been a subpar North American hard-court summer by the 27-year-old’s standards, losing in the quarter-finals in Toronto and the third round in Cincinnati. But the third seed has found his best tennis at the season’s final major and is now a Tour-leading 38-5 on hard courts this year with four titles on the surface (Rotterdam, Doha, Dubai, Miami).
Medvedev did not allow the hype around a potential Djokovic-Alcaraz championship match to break his focus. Medvedev showed great intensity in his footwork and his ball-striking, especially off the forehand wing. That kept the top seed from dictating with as much comfort as usual, leading to errors in key moments.
With Tom Brady, Kevin Durant and Charlize Theron headlining the celebrities watching from the crowd, there was little to separate Medvedev and Alcaraz in the first set. But in the tie-break, Alcaraz hit a poor drop volley, allowing Medvedev to chase down a forehand and earn the ultimately decisive mini-break.
Alcaraz was unable to reset in time to start off the second set well. Despite consistently taking advantage of his opponent's deep court positioning early by moving forward, the Spaniard hit a forehand drop shot into the net to relinquish an immediate break and was never able to earn it back. Everything was going right for Medvedev, who claimed another break with an incredible one-handed backhand stab on the full stretch. World feed commentator Robbie Koenig called a “moment of magic”.
But Alcaraz did not go down without a fight. The reigning Wimbledon titlist broke serve for the first time in the match at 2-1 and was able to make that advantage hold. The defending champion continued moving forward as Medvedev continued to play deep in the court.
The 20-year-old won 13 of 15 net points in the third set compared to four of 13 for Medvedev. Alcaraz moved forward with authority and in control of points, while his opponent often ended up at the wrong end of booming passing shots.
"The third set was not so bad, I lost one serve. I didn't have a lot of opportunities on his serve, but I felt like I was not that far. So I was like, 'I have to continue pushing. I have to do a little bit better on my serve.' I saved some break points at 1-all. There was a very crucial, super-long game where I managed to do some amazing points to stay in the game and then he kind of — maybe we don't see him do this often — he started to miss a little bit. Yeah, amazing."
As Medvedev continued to return from far behind the baseline, Alcaraz consistently served and volleyed, showing exceptional skill in the forecourt. But Medvedev finally forced a net mistake from his opponent to break for 4-2.
After an emphatic love hold to move within one game of victory, Medvedev needed to claw to the finish line. Alcaraz conjured more magic to earn three break points in the final game of the match, but the 2021 champion refused to be denied.
Did You Know?
Alcaraz will relinquish No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings to Djokovic on Monday. However, if Medvedev defeats Djokovic in the US Open final, Alcaraz will maintain a 30-point lead in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin.