It’s not the U.S. Open dream final everyone predicted. It does, however, have the chance to be memorable in its own right.
No, there will not be a Novak Djokovic-Carlos Alcaraz Wimbledon rematch at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday.
But there will be a repeat of the 2021 U.S. Open final between Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev. In that one, the Russian stunned Djokovic and ended his shot at completing the first calendar grand slam since 1969.
They will meet again Sunday, with the second-seeded Djokovic looking for his fourth U.S. Open title and the No. 3 Medvedev out for his second major title.
At the age of 36, Djokovic has yet to slow down.
A victory would give him his third Grand Slam crown of the year and the 24th of his career, which would tie Margaret Court’s all-time record.
A win Sunday would make Djokovic the oldest male U.S. Open champion, and would be his seventh major title in the last 10 tournaments he has entered.
“The fact is that at 36, every Grand Slam final could be the last one,” Djokovic said. “So I think that I probably value these occasions and opportunities to win another slam as more than I have maybe 10 years ago, because 10 years ago I felt like, ‘Hey, I still have quite a few years ahead of me.’ I don’t know how many I have ahead of me now. … How many of the years where I play four slams in the [same] season do I have in front of me?”
Alcaraz was supposed to be Djokovic’s opponent in a rematch of the thrilling five-set Wimbledon final from this past July won by the 20-year-old Spaniard. It didn’t work out that way.
It was a stunner. Alcaraz entered his semifinal against Medvedev on Friday night having lost just one set in the tournament.
In the previous two matches between the two players, Alcaraz didn’t lose a set as he manhandled Medvedev. The latest encounter was very different: Medvedev won the first two sets in impressive fashion and prevailed in four. Afterward, he said he played a “12 out of 10.”
A repeat of that performance will be necessary to beat Djokovic, who has rebounded well after his close call in the third round, in which he rallied to defeat No. 32 Laslo Djere after losing the first two sets. Medvedev’s victory in Flushing two years ago won’t necessarily help him too much.
“Novak, when he loses, he’s never the same after,” Medvedev said. “So he’s different. It’s just a different mentality. That’s why he has 23 Grand Slams. … So I have to use [that final] 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.”
It isn’t the blockbuster final most envisioned, but it is intriguing nonetheless.
Two of the best returners are meeting in the final grand slam match of the year, with both of them at the top of their game.
Medvedev was thrilled he was able to get past Alcaraz, the No. 1 player in the world at the time of their match.
“Just really happy,” Medvedev, 27, said, “but the tournament is not over.”
No, it is not. One match remains for the Russian to make his own kind of history, to beat the two best players in the sport in back-to-back matches.
Arguably the greatest player of all time is standing in his way.
“The challenge is that you play a guy that won 23 Grand Slams, and I have only one,” Medvedev said. “When I beat him here, I managed to play better than myself, so I need to do it again. There is no other way.”