The 23-year-old out to dash Djokovic’s dream of Grand Slam No 17
Fresh from breaking into the world’s top five, Daniil Medvedev will rightly have his eyes on the US Open prize, writes Michael Hincks.
There is a sea of Swiss, Serbian and Spanish flags when looking back over the list of men’s Grand Slam singles champions the past 15 years.
For the best part, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are the three names next to those flags, and while Stan Wawrinka adds three to the Swiss’ numbers - and Andy Murray three for Great Britain - it is the Argentinian and Croatian flags in the US Open column which ultimately stand out. (Yes, I’m looking on Wikipedia).
Flushing Meadows was the scene of Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic’s first, and to date only, Grand Slam triumphs in 2009 and 2014 respectively, with the duo upsetting normal service by going the distance.
The US Open has proved a happy hunting ground for those targeting maiden Grand Slam titles - Murray did so 2012 - while Marat Safin, Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick also won their first majors there in the early 2000s.
Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina kisses the trophy after defeating Roger Federer of Switzerland in the men's singles final match at the US Open in New York Reuters
This could arguably be put down to fatigue, whereby a long, hard-fought season has taken its toll, and those who normally challenge fall short. Del Potro and Cilic may argue otherwise, but the chasing pack will not mind if that is the case this time around.
So among those aiming for a first Grand Slam later this month, what chance do we have of seeing another Russian tasting success in New York, 19 years on from Safin's victory?
When top seed and defending champion Djokovic looks over his shoulder, he’ll see the usual suspects in Nadal and Federer, but he’ll also see Medvedev, not quite a household name, but one who is certainly going the right way in terms of changing that in the coming fortnight.
Medvedev, 23, has enjoyed an impressive hard-court season to date, reaching the finals in Washington and Montreal before winning his first Masters title in Cincinnati.
Medvedev’s US Open Series hard-court results
- Citi Open – Final – Lost to Nick Kyrgios 7-6 7-6
- Rogers Cup – Final – Lost to Rafael Nadal 6-3 6-0
- Western & Southern Open – Winner – Beat David Goffin 7-6 6-4 in final
Djokovic was one of Medvedev’s victims en route to Cincinnati glory, with the Russian prevailing 3-6 6-3 6-3 in their semi-final meeting.
“He's definitely one of the best players in the world,” Djokovic admitted after the defeat, having also lost to Medvedev earlier this year on the Monte Carlo clay.
“He certainly improved since Australian Open this year. His forehand is better. His movement is better. I mean, his serve was always big.
“I did not experience this too many times in my career that someone goes so big on second serves and just serves two first serves basically for an extended period of time.
" There is certainly an evolution in his game and improvement. He's going in the right direction and it's why he's doing so well."
Medvedev's rise up the rankings
- November 2016 – Breaks into Top 100
- July 2017 – Breaks into Top 50
- October 2018 – Breaks into Top 20
- July 2019 – Breaks into Top 10
- August 2019 – Breaks into Top 5
Meanwhile, losing finalist in Cincinnati – David Goffin – believes Medvedev is ready to go all the way at the US Open.
“Congratulations to your team,” Goffin said to Medvedev. “Once again, an unbelievable week for you, fantastic.
" I think you are ready for New York."
The extent of Medvedev’s evolution will be scrutinised in New York next week. The fifth seed will pose as a potential quarter-final opponent to one of Djokovic, Nadal, Federer or Dominic Thiem, but he will also have to cope with increased expectations following his rapid rise up the rankings.
Overcoming Djokovic, Nadal and Federer over best-of-five has proved a near unscalable task in recent years, but the US Open has proven to be the home of many a maiden victory.
Medvedev has every right to feel that this is his time.