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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Saturday September 11, 2021

The moment has arrived in New York. Novak Djokovic’s quest for the calendar-year Grand Slam, building ever since he took the court against Jeremy Chardy in the first round of the Australian Open.

Tennis Express

The World No.1 and 20-time Grand Slam champion, who will face No.2-seeded Daniil Medvedev in the final, has undergone a remarkable journey at the majors in 2021. Perhaps this statistic sums up the quality of Djokovic’s play – and attitude – better than any other in 2021: The Serb is 10-0 at the majors when dropping the opening set in 2021. He was 31-36 at the majors when dropping the opening set entering this season.

Maybe Djokovic the phenom on the court hasn’t changed all that much as a player, but something inside him, some deep yearning to make an exclamatory statement about who he is as a player and competitor, is bubbling to the surface in 2021. We’ve always known Djokovic to be the one who digs deep. We’ve seen him battle back from the brink to win Slam titles on multiple occasions, most notably in 2011 in New York, when he hit the forehand heard around the world against Roger Federer in the semis, and in 2019, when he became the first man to save championship points in a Wimbledon final since 1948.

This “aura” as Djokovic calls it (and it really is) tends to stick in the minds of his opponents. They know this is a player who is “all-in” and will dig to the depths of his being to scratch out a victory at this point of his legendary Grand Slam career. Especially this year, with the Grand Slam and a 21st major title in his sights.

“Well, you don't develop that kind of reputation I guess instantly. It takes a lot of time,” Djokovic said. “It takes a lot of matches won at the biggest stage when you are down match points, so to say."

"Probably all these big matches that I won, big titles over the years, have kind of built that kind of aura around me that players know there's a never-die spirit with me, especially when I play Grand Slams. They know that until the last shot, you know, things can turn around, which was the case in several occasions throughout my career. So I'm glad that my opponents think of me that way. I want them to feel that they are under extreme pressure when I'm facing them on a big stage in Grand Slams.”

Now that Djokovic has come to within one victory of becoming the first player to win the Calendar Slam since 1988 (Steffi Graf), and the first men’s player, since 1969 (Rod Laver), let’s take a look at his final hurdle, a matchup with the unorthodox and brilliant Russian, Medvedev.

They Have History

Medvedev has earned victories against Djokovic – three in total, for a 3-5 lifetime record – but has gone winless against the Serb at the Slams.

Their last meeting at Australia was the one that will leave a mark. Djokovic absolutely pummeled the Russian in the Australian Open final, dropping just nine games as he claimed his ninth title in Melbourne. But there’s a silver lining for Medvedev in that devastating loss: He’s learned from it. Here’s what Medvedev said of the defeat after reaching the final on Friday in New York.

“I think the thing that I understand, I always give my best, but I feel like I didn't leave my heart on the court in Melbourne,” Medvedev said. “Even if of course I wanted to, there was something not turning up this match. That's what I'm going to try to do on Arthur Ashe with hopefully 100% of fans. No matter the score, I'm just going to turn up the heat, if I can say, and try to do my best, even more than what I did in Melbourne.”

Time on Court: Favors Medvedev

The Russian has dropped only one set and spent just 11:51 on court through six matches, which is great match management. Medvedev has proven to be a dominant force at the US Open, winning 17 of his last 19, and every little bit of extra gas in the tank should come in handy.

Djokovic has had a rougher time of it, dropping six sets and spending 17:26 on court. Of course, he’d like it if that number was lower, but Djokovic has one match to play and if there is anything missing in his tank he’ll more than likely make up for it with adrenaline. He made a very ominous statement of intent on court after his five-set win over Alexander Zverev on Friday.

“I know that people would like to hear me talk about it but there is not much to talk about,” Djokovic said of his quest. “There is only one match leftーall in. I’m going to put my heart and my soul and my body and my head into that one. I’m going to treat the next match like it is the last match of my career.”


It’s hard to measure the efficacy of Djokovic’s serve at the US Open but one thing is certain: It has been there when he has needed it. Djokovic has been broken 12 times and won 77 percent of his first-serve points. Medvedev has been broken six times and won 82 percent of his first-serve points.

Believe it or not, Medvedev has won a higher percentage of return games through six rounds (41 percent to 37 percent) but again it’s hard to measure the stat accurately when Djokovic spent his last two rounds against Berrettini and Zverev, two lights-out servers, while Medvedev face Botic van de Zandschulp and Felix Auger-Aliassime, great players but not exactly the most reliable servers on tour.

Both players are winning a similar amount of baseline points (Djokovic 51 percent and Medvedev 52 percent).


With Djokovic aware of the importance of the moment while at the same time working his hardest to not let distractions derail him, it looks and feels like he is ready to play one of the best matches of his career. If his semifinal against Zverev is any indication, he’ll be ready for the tight moments, thinking with clarity, and executing to a T.

Medvedev will need a next-level effort to keep up. He’ll have to produce inspired serving, especially in the biggest moments, and outplay Djokovic from the baseline, at least in spurts. But even more than that, he’ll have to demonstrate an ability to mix and match tactics and to execute at the net, with smashes, volleys and drive volleys.

No doubt about it, Medvedev has proven he’s a worthy adversary to Djokovic, especially at the US Open, where he has made his name.

Is he ready to jump to the next level and prove that he has what it takes to defeat Djokovic, not just at a Slam, but in a match that Djokovic is prepared to give every ounce of his being to winning?


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