No changing of the guard, but maverick Medvedev’s classy US Open win finally matches form with a major for this potential great
Plenty of excellent players have found the doors slammed shut in their faces by the trophy cabinet keepers of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer over the years, a frustration that brings with it no shame when the three established dons are such supreme forces.
Their almost total domination adds another layer of weariness to the familiar cliches around the changing of the guard, to the point that Medvedev's place in the final in New York, despite his superb form over the last year or so, seemed just another set-up for Djokovic to knock down.
The more impressive the form of the 'next gen' when they meet the giants, the more impressive it looks when the veterans win. So it was in this year's Australian Open final, where Djokovic won 14 of the last 18 games against Medvedev in a routing.
As much as Medvedev has clearly been building towards his first Grand Slam title, nothing is assured in the age of the modern greats.
That was evident when Medvedev, despite looking unstoppable during a run that had won him the ATP Tour Finals, was swept away by Djokovic in Melbourne in January.
Dominic Thiem, who has almost disappeared from view by his standards this year, is the only other player to have won any of the last 19 Grand Slam finals apart from Djokovic, Nadal and Federer – and he did so in the absence of all three last year, including Djokovic following his farcical disqualification.
That made Thiem's victory welcome but unconvincing. Medvedev, from the opening minutes this year, gave off a conviction and assuredness that suggested he is here to stay.
An instant break was the lift-off for a stylish performance that almost completely outgunned Djokovic, only relenting when, at 5-2 in the third set, Medvedev had a wobble and his opponent saw a glimmer of a chance, clawing back one of the two breaks he had suffered in that set.
Medvedev's achievement in New York, let alone in ending Djokovic's charge at the slam, is also significant in the context of the reception he received from the crowd two years ago, when he was booed as a pantomime villain, perceived as a surly outsider.
If he can bring his Roland Garros form to the clay-court season, Medvedev will likely be very much in contention for world No. 1 by spring. https://t.co/O3sOb0EKjp— David Kane (@DKTNNS) September 12, 2021
That billing never really fitted him. A memorable salvo in which he had a grumpy moment with a ballboy, raised a finger to the crowd and was unpleasant to the umpire seemed more like a bad hour at the office than acts of ingrained nastiness, and he was already on the way to restoring his reputation with the home fans by the time he had pushed Rafael Nadal all the way in a five-set final.
Now there is maturity and charisma on and off the court. As well as the unorthodox fronthands and backhands and remarkable consistency of his groundstrokes, there are the arch moments of comedy and, when Djokovic was emotional after the final, the gestures to his box to keep their celebrations low-key.
When he was younger, Medvedev feared his fits of temper and concentration slumps would cost him matches. There will, almost certainly, be more racket-smashing to come, but he now seems to know himself better.
Psychologist Francisca Dos, who was at the final, has helped with that, as has his wife, Daria, who he addressed on their third wedding anniversary in his charming speech on the Arthur Ashe podium.
Djokovic, beside him, will probably fashion this defeat into motivational fuel in the same way he did with that embarrassing exit last year. After a magnificent year, he looks as powerful as ever, and now has time to heal from this final dagger to his pride.
Federer's return to full fitness looks uncertain, and Nadal seems determined to come back. There is also the matter of none of the other contenders finding the consistency yet to become fixtures in the final four of tournaments.
It will be a relief for Medvedev, though, to have broken his duck at a major. The whispers can now become talk, and with it ambitions of more major titles following.Also on rt.com ‘This is pressure’: Fans feel for Djokovic as star IN TEARS before losing bid for historic Grand Slam against Medvedev (VIDEO)