Daniil Medvedev is employing a deep return position at the 2023 US Open, which has proven effective against his opponents. Even Carlos Alcaraz, known for his drop shots, was unable to take advantage of Medvedev’s strategic positioning on the court.
The upcoming match between Medvedev and Novak Djokovic in the 2023 US Open raises the question of whether Medvedev’s tactics will work against Djokovic. While Medvedev dominated Djokovic in the 2021 US Open Final, Djokovic holds a 9-5 advantage in their head-to-head matchups.
Similar to Alcaraz, Djokovic has a variety of shots in his arsenal, including the drop shot, which could disrupt Medvedev’s rhythm and force him to lunge and move forward uncomfortably. Djokovic is also skilled in serve-and-volley tactics, particularly effective when facing an opponent positioned near the Flushing Meadow Unisphere.
During this tournament, Medvedev has displayed some unpredictability in his return position on second serves. He often moves closer to the baseline, but also adjusts horizontally depending on the opponent and the court side.
Medvedev will need to improve his return game against Djokovic, as Djokovic possesses a superior serving ability compared to Alcaraz. Djokovic currently ranks second in serve rating on the ATP Tour in the past year, with only Hubert Hurkacz ahead of him. In comparison, Medvedev ranks 16th and Alcaraz ranks 19th. Therefore, Medvedev’s success against Alcaraz may not necessarily translate into the US Open Final against Djokovic.
The return of serve is a critical aspect of men’s tennis, and Medvedev has excelled in this area over the past year, according to ATP’s ratings. His deep return position allows him time to control the direction of the ball and neutralize his opponents’ serves, giving himself an opportunity to win points.
Djokovic will likely employ a variety of spins, speeds, and placements in his serves. He is aware that Medvedev’s forehand return is slightly more error-prone and attackable compared to his backhand return.
Analyzing Medvedev’s match against Alcaraz, it is evident that he committed six return unforced errors, all of which were on Alcaraz’s second serve. This is not ideal, especially on a second serve. Alcaraz’s mixing of kick, slice, and flat serves may have contributed to Medvedev’s errors. Djokovic would have recognized this vulnerability and will likely employ variations in his serves.
Medvedev claimed to be in the zone during the match against Alcaraz, and Djokovic will need to prevent him from finding a comfortable rhythm in their upcoming match.
In contrast, Djokovic’s dominant win over Ben Shelton saw him hit zero return winners and commit zero return unforced errors on both first and second serves. Djokovic’s consistent aim was to keep the ball in play.
It will be interesting to observe the return positions of both Medvedev and Djokovic in their match, as they are both world-class players who approach this aspect of the game differently.