Daniil Medvedev lost to Novak Djokovic in the final of the first Grand Slam of 2021.
If the Russian has his way, he will beat Djokovic in the last match of the year’s final major tennis tournament.
The world No. 2 says his goal — and the goal of everyone else who might face Djokovic at the U.S. Open — is to beat him and prevent him from winning his record-setting 21st major and becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win the Grand Slam.
“Yeah, well since I’m here I want to say I’m going to try my best to keep it at 20 for all of them,” Medvedev said Friday on Zoom in response to my question, referring to Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer being tied at 20 majors. “Tennis is about winning tournaments and winning matches, [Djokovic] is very good at it so I’m sure Novak wants 45 Slams and [to] play until [he’s] 55.
“But we are here to try to keep up his level and beat him.”
Medvedev, who lost in this year’s Australian Open final to Djokovic and the 2019 U.S. Open final to Nadal, is part of a group of challengers looking to stop Djokovic’s march toward history in Queens. That group includes Olympic gold medalist Sascha Zverev, who enters on an an 11-match winning streak; French Open runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas; and Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini.
Djokovic has won eight of the last 12 majors and this year alone has beaten 20-somethings Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Berrettini in major finals. Djokovic could potentially have to beat Berrettini in the quarterfinals, Zverev in the semis and Medvedev in the final to win the Open.
But Medvedev points to Zverev’s victory over Djokovic at the Tokyo Olympics for inspiration.
“He was going for Olympics, was up a set and a break against Sascha and Sascha managed to bring on an amazing level to beat him and that’s what you have to do against him,” the Russian said.
“We are here to not let him win the U.S. Open. If I talk just for myself, I want to win the US Open. I don’t care if it’s a final against a qualifier or against Novak, I just want to win this tournament.”
“Novak is a very strong player, one of the best in the history and that’s why any tournament he’s in, either a Slam or a Futures or an ATP, he’s a big contender and a big favorite.”
Asked to single out one aspect of Djokovic’s game that makes him so difficult to beat, Medvedev pointed to his movement.
“I’d probably say the movement,” he said. “If I would have to choose one, it’s going to be the movement. If not, he’s probably one of the most complete players in the history of tennis, backhand, forehand, return, serve is not bad also.”
Seven-time Grand Slam champion John McEnroe and defending champion Dominic Thiem are among those picking Djokovic to complete the Grand Slam.
Four-time major champ Jim Courier has said he believes Djokovic can contend for major titles until he’s 40 and will wind up with somewhere around 25-26 majors.
Medvedev is now focused on becoming the first young gun to stop Djokovic from getting to No. 21.
“We’re going to try to get him,” he said. “Of course, this competition to be the first one of these young guys to win a Slam is, I think, yeah, everybody wants to do it, but there’s going to be only one who makes it.”