NEW YORK: It’s just another match for Novak Djokovic, a routine outing at Flushing Meadows. No annotations to that picture.
A fourth US Open title, a historic 24th Grand Slam that’ll make him the most decorated player of the Open Era. A crown that would help him draw level with Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 major titles. Djokovic can see it, but he’s not considering it.
The Serbian -in a record-equalling 10th US Open final, having drawn level with Bill Tilden -will play Russian Daniil Medvedev in the title clash on Sunday. The 2021 cast again.
Djokovic, playing his 100th match at the New York major, put out American Ben Shelton 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (4). “I understand every time I’m in a Grand Slam final it’s another shot at history,” Djokovic said.
“I was very close to the 24th title in London. I don’t allow myself to reflect on these things, because when I did that in the past, like the ’21 finals here, I was maybe overwhelmed by the occasion and I underperformed.” “I’ll try to focus on what needs to be done and prepare myself for that match,” he said. Djokovic’s head-to-head with Medvedev is 9-5, they split their two meetings this year, both played on outdoor hardcourts.
Djokovic’s run in the Grand Slams has been exceptional this year, 26 wins to one loss. “It probably sounds cocky or arrogant, but I’m not really surprised,” said Djokovic of his staggering run at the age of 36. His face reflected pride. “I know how much work and energy I put into trying to be in this position, I deserve this,” he said. “I believe in myself, in my skills, in my quality as a tennis player to be able to deliver when it matters.”
“Age is just a number, that phrase is resonating in me at the moment,” he said. “I don’t want to even consider leaving tennis or thinking about an end, if I’m still at the top of the game. I will probably consider doing that if I get my a@%# kicked by young guys in Grand Slams in early stages. So far, I still feel that I’m in the game.”
Djokovic gave himself full marks for making the finals of all four majors this year. “It’s the highest achievement I can think about when I start a season,” Djokovic said. “That’s what I dream about. There’s another match left, the conversation will probably be even better if I win the title. But definitely whatever hap pens, I’m extremely proud and content with what I have achieved this year in Grand Slams.”
Medvedev played the disruptor late on Friday, methodically chipping away at the defending champion Carlos Alcaraz‘ play.
The 27-year-old ruined the rackety party on Arthur Ashe, by virtually taking the net away from the Spaniard to score a 7-6 (3), 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win.
Medvedev is aware that Djokovic will make him pay for the 2021 final that cost the Serb an historic calendar Grand Slam.
“When Novak loses, he’s never the same after. It’s just a different mentality. That’s why he has 23 Grand Slams,” the third seed said. “I have to use it, knowing that he’s going to be 10 times better than what he was that day (in 2021). And I have to be, if I want to beat him, 10 times better than I was that day.”
DANIIL STUMPS ALCARAZ
Carlos Alcaraz appeared to have Daniil Medvedev’s number, the Spaniard’s two wins this season, on two different surfaces, seemed to suggest it. But Medvedev turned it around.
“I couldn’t find solutions on the match. It’s amazing how he can return from the back of the court, really powerful, standing really deep,” Alcaraz said. “When I serve and volley, he always finds the passing shot from his house!”
Medvedev is positioned so far behind the baseline for his return, he might as well be standing in his living room a continent away.
“I have to find the right serve and I have to serve better to be able to stay in a good position after the serve,” Alcaraz said. “I had thought that now I’m better at finding solutions when the match is not going in the right direction,” Alcaraz said. “But I’m not mature enough. I have to learn.”
DJOKO ‘HANGS UP’ ON SHELTON
Novak Djokovic hung up on Ben Shelton after beating him in the US Open. The 36-year-old, perhaps peeved with the 20-year-old American, who was revving up the Arthur Ashe stadium, returned Shelton’s celebration statement. The 20-year-old signs off by making a telephone gesture, once, twice, before hanging up.
“It’s like I’m saying I’m dialed in,” Shelton explained. “I’m close friends with a lot of athletes, one in particular, Grant Holloway, who has won the World Championships three times in a row now, that’s his signature thing.”
“I didn’t see it until after the match,” the American said of Djokovic’s reaction. “I don’t like when I’m on social media and I see people telling me how I can celebrate or can’t celebrate,” Shelton said. “I think if you win the match, you deserve to do whatever you want.”
He added, “As a kid growing up, I learned that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Djokovic responded with a smile. “I just love Ben’s celebration,” he said. “I stole his celebration.”