Djokovic, Medvedev and déjà vu in the Serb’s head

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NEW YORK – Perhaps Roger Federer thought so when he beat Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon 2019 and advanced to the final that ended in Swiss tragedy. There is no doubt that Nadal himself, aware of the ongoing struggle he carries with his body, thought that possibly Roland Garros 2022 was the last time he played in the final of a major.

The era of the Big Three is over. Federer is retired, Nadal is a mystery. Djokovic is the only force left at the moment.  And it is true that whatever happens in New York, Djokovic will have signed one of his best seasons since he has been a professional. But he is 36 years old. With a physical condition that anyone would like, yes, but it is no longer the same as it was at 26.

It is September 2023 and Djokovic is considering that scenario. That the final that will measure him against Daniil Medvedev this Sunday 10th might be the last of the 36 times he goes out to the court to fight for one of the tournaments that really matter to him.

And fact that has become meme material: Medvedev has only ever beaten Djokovic when the Serb is world number one. The Russian laughs in press conference after beating Carlos Alcaraz. Surely he has seen the jokes circulating on the internet: “It’s funny. Novak is not yet number one (whatever happens in the final, it will be from Monday), but well, if we want to joke about it, I’m going to think that on Monday he will be number one. I don’t know why the stat is like that, I don’t think it has anything to do with the matches. On Sunday I won’t care about his ranking. It’s Novak Djokovic and I’m going to try to win.”

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Medvedev imitated a celebration of the FIFA console game in 2021

The three-time champion at Flushing Meadows has shown in his career that he is a player who knows how to make the most of his mistakes and does not stumble over the same stone. Thus, the Serb thinks about that match that, metaphorically, he did not play: in 2021 he lost in the final in three sets against the Russian. This Sunday’s match will be the revenge that a small portion of the Serb particularly longs for. Because two years ago his arm was shortened. It could not be Djokovic because of nerves and gave the Russian his first and last Grand Slam title.

The legend hovering in the memory of that afternoon was Steffi Graf, the last person to have won all four majors in a single season (1988). The goal Djokovic was pursuing after having won in Melbourne, Paris and London in 2021. Ultimately, the Serb faced the Russian after 27 straight wins. The 28th was too heavy.

On Sunday, the memory of another woman who marked the sport will be revived. It was already so at Wimbledon with Margaret Court. Djokovic says that the mark of 24 Grand Slam titles of the Australian does not interest him, however it is also true that in case of reaching them, there are fewer and fewer arguments left to those who point out that Djokovic is not yet the best in history. That debate does interest him.

“I don’t think much about history, because the time I did, like in the 2021 finals, I was overwhelmed by the occasion, by the opportunity I had, and I underperformed,” he says before facing a déjà vu of the last time his head took made him lose a tournament.

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