‘Djokovic will be watching,’ says Medvedev as he aims to derail Nadal history bid
Daniil Medvedev will attempt to prevent Rafael Nadal from winning a record 21st Grand Slam title when the pair clash in the Australian Open final on Sunday – and the Russian says he expects the absent Novak Djokovic to be watching closely.
Medvedev saw off Greek fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in a tempestuous match in Melbourne to set up a final against Nadal, who had overcome Matteo Berrettini in his semifinal earlier on Friday.
Sunday’s showdown will see Nadal aiming for a record 21st Grand Slam title – which would move him one ahead of great rivals Djokovic and Roger Federer in the all-time rankings.
Medvedev, meanwhile, will be playing a fourth Grand Slam final of his career.
The Russian is the reigning US Open champion after beating Djokovic in last year’s New York final.
But Medvedev has lost his two other previous finals at Majors – first against Nadal in a five-set epic at the US Open in 2019, and then in straight sets against Djokovic in Melbourne last year.
This time round Down Under, Nadal and Medvedev can take advantage of the absence of Djokovic, whose deportation from Australia in a visa and vaccine row overshadowed the start of the tournament.
After beating Tsitsipas, Medvedev suggested Djokovic would be glued to the TV screen to watch Sunday’s final, where Nadal could surpass the Serbian great in Grand Slam crowns.
“I’m going to play again one of the greatest, and what’s funny is I’m going to play again someone going for the 21st Slam,” said Medvedev, who prevented Djokovic from reaching the landmark with his win over the Serb in New York last September.
“So I guess last time Rafa was watching near the TV [when I played Djokovic], I don’t know who he was cheering for, and I think Novak will be watching this one in two days also.
“Grand Slam finals are special, and of course I remember the match with Rafa at the US Open, it was my first one, we played five hours or something close to it,” added the Russian second seed.
Daniil Medvedev says he WILL watch Ash Barty's final - but only after Jim Courier twisted his arm! 🤣🤣#AusOpen - live on Channel 9 and 9Now. Ad-Free Live & On Demand on Stan Sport pic.twitter.com/hEmjIzS2eN— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) January 28, 2022
Despite his remarkable career record, Nadal is something of surprise finalist in Melbourne this time round, having missed the last five months of last season with a foot injury and suffering a Covid infection in December which cast doubt on his participation in Australia.
But the 35-year-old has found form and fitness at the right time, remaining unbeaten in nine matches so far in 2022 and easing past seventh seed Berrettini with some sensational tennis on Friday.
Nadal is a now a six-time finalist in Melbourne, but has only won one of his previous five appearances in the showpiece, back in 2009.
Medvedev, meanwhile, cited Djokovic’s fighting spirit as inspiration in his epic five-set victory over Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliasimme in the quarterfinal earlier in the week in Melbourne.
The Russian world number two’s semifinal win against Tsitsipas was not without incident as he clashed with umpire Jaume Campistol, accusing the official of allowing the Greek to receive coaching from his father on the sidelines.
After ranting that Campistol was “a small cat,” Medvedev regained his composure to win the match in four sets.
If he defeats Nadal on Sunday, the 25-year-old Medvedev would become the first man to follow a maiden Grand Slam title with victory in his next appearance at a Major.
He can also become the first Russian since Marat Safat in 2005 to win the men's crown in Melbourne.
“I’m ready, I know that Rafa is a very strong player and I’ll need to show my best,” said Medvedev as he looked ahead to the match with Nadal.