© Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev contested three finals in 2021.

Rivalries Of 2021: Djokovic vs. Medvedev

ATP Tour Season In Review: Best Rivalries

This week ATP Tour begins its annual season-in-review series, looking back at 2021’s best matches, biggest upsets, most dramatic comebacks and more. This week we look at the most compelling rivalries of the year, beginning with Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev. The players ended the year at No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in the FedEx ATP Rankings following a season in which they shared three high-stakes showdowns.

Throughout his career, Novak Djokovic has enjoyed epic rivalries with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. But with a new generation of stars on the rise, the Serbian is facing new threats, none bigger than from Daniil Medvedev.

The Russian ended the 2020 season by capturing the Nitto ATP Finals title, defeating Djokovic in the round-robin stage, which saw the Monte-Carlo resident enter the 2021 season having won three of his past four meetings against the World No. 1. By the start of the season Medvedev had narrowed his ATP Head2Head series deficit against Djokovic to 3-4.

Set on turning the tables, Djokovic faced Medvedev three times in 2021 in a determined mood. All meetings came in finals and both players adjusted tactics after earlier defeats to turn the tables on their rival.

Australian Open, Final, Djokovic d. Medvedev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2
Djokovic has made Melbourne a second home throughout his career, having dominated the first major of the season. The 34-year-old faced Medvedev in the championship match aiming to join 13-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal as only the second man to win nine or more titles at the same major event.

But unlike in previous years, the Serbian’s route to the final had been anything but smooth. After battling past Taylor Fritz in five sets and Milos Raonic and Alexander Zverev in four, many gave Medvedev a big chance, with the World No. 2 dispatching Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas without dropping a set. Medvedev was also on a 20-match winning streak, having helped guide Russia to the ATP Cup title earlier in February to continue his red-hot end-of-season form from 2020.

However, Djokovic reminded everyone why he is the king in Australia, producing a masterclass against Medvedev in the final to capture his 18th major title. The top seed marched to a 3-0 lead within 10 minutes and never looked back, returning with depth and accuracy to secure his victory.

With Djokovic and Medvedev both possessing rock solid backhands from the baseline, the World No. 1 targeted the Russian’s forehand throughout, extracting 33 errors from that wing as he dictated the forehand exchanges.

"Everyone talks about the new generation coming and taking over us, but realistically that isn't happening still,” Djokovic said. “We can talk about it all day but with all my respect to the other guys, they still have a lot of work to do. I'm not going to stand here and hand it over to them. I'm going to make them work their ass off for that."

Photo Credit: Mackenzie Sweetnam/Getty Images

US Open, Final, Medvedev d. Djokovic 6-4, 6-4, 6-4
After meeting in the first major final of the season, the pair did not face each other again until the final major championship match of the year at the US Open. In that time, Djokovic had captured the trophy at Roland Garros and Wimbledon and was trying to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four majors in one season.

The Serbian, who triumphed at Flushing Meadows in 2011, 2015 and 2018, was also aiming to break a tie with Federer and Nadal for the most major titles in history (20 each). Medvedev, meanwhile, was seeking his maiden Slam title and had swept through the draw for the loss of just one set.

With history beckoning and all eyes on Djokovic, Medvedev spoiled the party, stunning the World No. 1 in straight sets. The Russian, who lost to Nadal in the US Open final in 2019, controlled the match from the start as he changed up the tactics from his Australian Open defeat.

Medvedev successfully overloaded the Ad court with a foray of backhand-to-backhand exchanges, where he could neutralise and frustrate Djokovic with his ultra-flat backhand that proved difficult to attack. The Serbian ended up hitting 39 more backhands than forehands in the match, something which helped Medvedev win the longer rallies. The 25-year-old hit 16 winners compared to Djokovic’s six and committed five fewer errors (33-38), serving out the clash at the second time of asking to secure his biggest career win.

“He had a lot of pressure,” Medvedev said. “I had a lot of pressure, too… I knew I cannot give him easy serves because that's what he likes. So that was the plan. Because of the confidence in a lot of tight moments, I managed to do it well.”

"I would like to say that tonight, even though I have not won the match, my heart is filled with joy and I'm the happiest man alive because you guys made me feel very special," Djokovic told the crowd. "You guys touched my soul. I've never felt like this in New York... I love you guys. Thank you so much for the support and everything you have done tonight for me. I love you and I'll see you soon."

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Rolex Paris Masters, Final, Djokovic d. Medvedev 4-6, 6-3, 6-3
One day after clinching a record seventh year-end No. 1 finish in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Djokovic looked to create more history against Medvedev and put his US Open final defeat behind him as he changed up the chessboard to gain revenge.

Medvedev came into the match off the back of a straight-sets semi-final win against Alexander Zverev, while Djokovic had edged Hubert Hurkacz in the last four. It meant it was the first time the Paris final had featured the top two players in the FedEx ATP Rankings since 1990.

In an entertaining match, Djokovic served and volleyed 22 times, winning 27 of 36 points at the net and striking 38 winners, dominating Medvedev in rallies under five shots (54 to 34) as he disrupted Medvedev’s rhythm from the baseline.

Djokovic’s first volley was cleverly hit short in the court with angle, which worked with Medvedev standing very deep in the court to return serve.

It was Djokovic’s 48th match win of a standout season and he broke a tie with Nadal for the most ATP Masters 1000 titles, lifting his 37th crown.

“I went back and reviewed the final of the US Open to see what I did wrong and what I did right,” Djokovic said. “I tried to read the patterns of his serve and the ball toss, maybe. I tried to look for the small details because it was a match of small margins. He started better, broke my serve in the first game and I came back. He served the first set out pretty comfortably, but I felt as if I was there.”

Djokovic vs. Medvedev In 2021






Australian Open




7-5, 6-2, 6-2

US Open

Hard              Final


6-4, 6-4, 6-4

Rolex Paris Masters             




4-6, 6-3, 6-3