This time he has reached the final with the minimum of fuss. He has only dropped one set, an aberration in his quarter-final win over Dutch surprise package Botic van de Zandschulp, and failed to enrage anyone too much other than his opponents with his relentless baselinery (and the odd umpire).

He can now upset the apple cart in a big way. Novak Djokovic has won 27 matches at grand slam tournaments this year and is a significant favourite to win a 28th. Doing so would make him only the second man in the Open era to complete the Grand Slam, winning all four majors in the same year, Rod Laver’s 1969 effort being the only previous instance in the men’s game. Few people expect him not to join the Australian.

Medvedev is now the only man with a chance to stop him. It is a mammoth task, but it is one the Russian believes he is up to – and with good reason.

Once bitten, twice shy

Djokovic himself knows that his reputation precedes him when he walks onto court with the so-called Next Generation of which Medvedev, world No 2, is currently the best.

“Probably all these big matches that I won, big titles over the years, have built that kind of aura around me that players know there’s a never-die spirit with me, especially when I play grand slams,” Djokovic said after triumphing in a five-set epic over Alexander Zverev.

“They know that until the last shot, 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.”

a woman standing in front of a crowd: Read More - Featured Image© Provided by The i Read More - Featured Image

The hope for Medvedev fans is that this will no longer be a point of intimidation for the Russian. He has played two grand slam finals before, including one against Djokovic himself earlier this year. He was dismantled in Melbourne, winning just nine games, and now has some idea of what it takes to get close to the Serbian on that stage. The mental hurdle of beating Djokovic in a slam final might be slightly smaller than it previously was.

“I was kind of not ready for it,” Medvedev himself said this week.

“So now I am.

“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. 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 per cent 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.”

Physical fitness no concern

Medvedev reminded us, in his press conference before the final, that he had been carrying an injury when he faced Rafael Nadal in the 2019 US Open final. He had sustained a one-centimetre tear to his quad muscle against Stan Wawrinka, but managed to nurse it to the final, where he gave a fine account of himself over five sets in the second longest US Open final in history.

Taking on Djokovic of course, perhaps the most physically demanding task in modern tennis, is a whole other challenge, but he will at least come in as fresh as he could realistically hope to be, so that when the world No 1 turns on the grind and pushes the rally count past 50, as he did and the pivotal moment of his semi-final against Alexander Zverev, Medvedev will hope he can hang tough.

The match will also get underway at 4pm local time in New York, when temperatures are expected to be around 30 degrees Celsius. For all his physical fitness, the heat did get to Djokovic in Tokyo when he lost to Zverev and could become a factor once again.

Nullify the Djokovic serve

Tactically, Medvedev is known as one of the best. He is often called a great problem-solver on the court, someone who has tactical ability to match his technical ability, especially mid-match.

His pre-match gameplan though must involve a way to stop Djokovic’s serve being as effective as it has been against his six previous opponents. The 20-time grand slam champion has rebuilt his serve on a number of occasions through his career, as much because of surgery on his arm as a need to find extra free points, and is no one of the best in the world. It is not a serve with huge amounts of power, but tactically and at the big moments, it is extremely potent.

Against Zverev, we saw Djokovic serve-and-volley on all bar two of the 12 break points he faced, and it was extremely effective. Medvedev is a much harder player to volley against because he hits the ball from much deeper in the court and with more top spin, especially on the forehand wing, so the Russian will need a plan to deal with Djokovic at the net but also Djokovic at the baseline, since he may change up his tactics.

He will also want to unsettle Djokovic on serve. Twice he double-faulted on break point against Zverev, suggesting pressure can be applied to his second serve, but Medvedev will need to land some body blows to the confidence of the top seed in order to open up those wounds.

Only the perfect game, and maybe more, will beat Djokovic on current form. Medvedev thinks that’s what he has been building towards.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/tennis/us-open-2021-final-three-reasons-daniil-medvedev-can-upset-novak-djokovic-and-deny-no-1-seed-the-grand-slam/ar-AAOludm?li=BBnbfcL