The 2023 U.S. Open final will be a rematch of sorts. It just won’t be the one anybody expected. Instead of Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz meeting again on the heels of their epic finals at Wimbledon and the Cincinnati Masters, Djokovic will be going up against Daniil Medvedev on Sunday afternoon in New York. That’s because Medvedev took down the top-ranked Spaniard 7-6(3), 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in Friday’s semifinal nightcap. Thus we have the same matchup that played out on championship Sunday in Arthur Ashe Stadium just two summers ago. With Djokovic one win away for securing the calendar-year Grand Slam, Medvedev dominated from start to finish for a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory.
Overall the head-to-head series stands at 9-5 in favor of Djokovic, but it has mostly been an even, back-and-forth ride since the Serb once held a 3-0 advantage. Medvedev’s 2021 U.S. Open triumph wrapped up a stretch in which he won four of six meetings. Djokovic answered by winning four in a row (including in a three-set Paris final later in 2021), but Medvedev halted that losing streak by prevailing 6-4, 6-4 earlier this season in Dubai.
Now the 27-year-old is ready for an opponent who will be eager to turn the tide back in his favor.
“Against Novak, it’s the same,” Medvedev explained. “He is always better than previous time he plays. For example, I beat him (in the 2021) U.S. Open final; he beat me in Bercy in a great match. Carlos beat him (at) Wimbledon; he beat [Carlos] in Cincinnati.
“Novak is going to be his best version on Sunday, and I have to be the best-ever version of myself if I want to try to beat him.”
Medvedev is almost always his best version of himself at Flushing Meadows. This marks his third trip the final, as he finished runner-up to Rafael Nadal in a five-setter two years before lifting the trophy. As usual, the world No. 3 is also in awesome form in front of the New York crowd this time around. He has advanced with victories over Attila Balazs, Christopher O’Connell, Sebastian Baez, Alex de Minaur, Andrey Rublev, and Alcaraz. No one–not even Alcaraz–has even forced a fifth set.
Djokovic has also been dominant this fortnight. The No. 2 seed had to come back from two sets down against Laslo Djere in round three, but he otherwise made quick work of Alexandre Muller, Bernabe Zapata Miralles, Borna Gojo, Taylor Fritz, and Ben Shelton.
Don’t sleep on this matchup. It’s not Djokovic vs. Alcaraz, but Djokovic vs. Medvedev was the best rivalry in tennis for a couple of seasons before Alcaraz rose to fame. It delivered the goods on a consistent basis, and that’s exactly what it should do again on Sunday.
Although this is a very winnable match for a red-hot Medvedev, Djokovic isn’t dealing with calendar-year Grand Slam pressure like he was in 2021. The 36-year-old is looking like the best player in the world–and the rankings will confirm as much on Monday regardless of if he wins or loses the final. It almost certainly won’t be easy, but Djokovic will likely regain the No. 1 spot with a win.
Pick: Djokovic in 5