US Open 2021: Novak Djokovic survives battle to reach final, set up historic match with Daniil Medvedev

·5 min read

Daniil Medvedev has reached his third career Grand Slam final, and the form he showed on Friday could vault him to his first title.

In order to pull that off, though, he'll have to get past top-ranked Novak Djokovic — who is searching for the elusive calendar grand slam, something that hasn't been done since 1969.

Djokovic and Medvedev will square off in the US Open final on Sunday at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York, a match that should have no issue living up to expectations. The top two players in the world will take the court, after all. 

"Last time was a crazy match," Medvedev said of his last battle with Djokovic. "If it's going to be the same match on Sunday, I just hope I can win this time."

Serbia's Novak Djokovic at the US Open
Novak Djokovic will only have to get past Daniil Medvedev to accomplish something not seen in men's tennis since 1969. (Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images)

Djokovic puts Zverev away to reach US Open final

Djokovic, despite an early stumble at Arthur Ashe Stadium, rallied to beat No. 4 Alexander Zverev 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in a grueling five-set match that lasted more than three and a half hours. He'll now advance to his ninth US Open final, a tournament record.

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It marks the fourth straight match where he’s dropped the opening set in New York, dating back to his third-round battle with Kei Nishikori.

“These are the moments we live for,” Djokovic said on the court after his win. “These are the kind of unique opportunities that we dream of every day when we wake up trying to find motivation to go out there and do the same thing over and over again. It pays off.”

The start of the first set was a battle, which was perhaps perfectly illustrated by a point in the seventh game — where Zverev somehow closed out Djokovic with a wild shot that barely cleared the net. Zverev simply couldn’t have played the drop-shot any better.

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After taking that point, he pushed through to take the first set 6-4.

Djokovic, clearly upset, rushed to a 3-0 lead in the second set — which included a perfect third game that seemed to give him all of the momentum back. And even though he dropped two games the rest of the way, Djokovic closed out the set relatively easily to tie things back up.

Djokovic got the third set, too, after taking a 5-4 lead and then surviving an incredible 53-shot rally to take a 2-1 lead. That rally was the longest of the US Open so far, and the longest that Djokovic has faced at a major this year.

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Zverev put up a fight in the fourth set, opening with a 4-2 lead before he quickly closed it out to extend the match with a fifth set. Djokovic, however, didn’t waste any time ending things for good. He got out to a 3-0 lead in the fifth set before he took advantage of a pair of Zverev errors to extend his lead to 4-0. 

From there, Zverev was done. Djokovic simply had to hold on to close the match out and earn his spot in the final, where he will have his shot to accomplish perhaps the toughest feat in tennis by winning his fourth straight major this year.

“There’s only one match left, exactly,” he said. “All in. Let’s do it. I’m going to put my heart, my soul and my body into that one.

“I’m going to treat the next match like it’s the last match of my career.”

Medvedev dominates Auger-Allassime

The world No. 2 dominated Canadian Felix Auger-Allassime in a 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 win to reach his second US Open final in three years.

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The first set was tidy affair for Medvedev, who got the set's only break by riding four straight errors from Auger-Allassime, two forced and two unforced. Auger-Allassime was on the verge of a response in the second set, going up 5-2 with two set points while Medvedev was serving. Medvedev responded with some of his best tennis of the tournament, winning five straight games to go up 2-0.

"He had two set points, so the only thing I was thinking was 'Don’t make an ace on the line, please, and I’m going to make you play,'" Medvedev said after the match. "At 5-4, I knew that now is a very important point of the match ... because that’s a moment where I could break him mentally, and that’s what happened."

As the Russian said, Auger-Allassime was basically done by the third set, getting broken twice early to end the deepest Grand Slam run of the 21-year-old's career.

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The match numbers as a whole paint a picture of dominance for Medvedev, whose movement and shot-making were on another level Friday. He out-aced Auger-Allassime 12-4, posted six fewer double faults, won 81 percent of his first serve points, won all five of his break points and had 37 winners to 25 unforced errors.

Six matches into his US Open run, Medvedev has dropped only one set.

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