NEW YORK – Daniil Medvedev shocked defending champion Carlos Alcaraz 7-6(3) 6-1 3-6 6-3 on Friday to move into the U.S. Open final, denying tennis fans the blockbuster finish to the Grand Slam season they had been hoping to see.
A final involving former-U.S. Open champions Medvedev and three-time winner Novak Djokovic on Sunday is one of obvious high quality but not the next chapter in tennis’s hottest rivalry of Djokovic and Alcaraz that has had the sport buzzing.
Djokovic did his part breezing past big-hitting American Ben Shelton 6-3 6-2 7-6(4), but Alcaraz could not crack the third-seeded Russian, who would bend but not break.
There will be some juicy subplots to Sunday’s final with Djokovic hunting a fourth U.S. Open that would see him equal Margaret Court’s record haul of 24 Grand Slams and, along with it, a good measure of revenge on Medvedev.
The last time Djokovic and Medvedev clashed at the U.S. Open was the 2021 final, where the Russian claimed his only major so far and denied the Serb a rare calendar Grand Slam.
A contest featuring the number one and third-ranked players got off to a predictably tight start.
Medvedev could not manufacture a single break opportunity while Alcaraz had just a pair of chances that he could not convert as the set marched to a tie-break that the Russian dominated 7-3.
With Medvedev a perfect 26-0 after taking the first set in matches at Flushing Meadows, it was an ominous start for Alcaraz, as the Spaniard’s ever-present smile disappeared.
After holding serve to open the second, Medvedev was presented with his first break chance of the match and would not waste it, taking a 2-0 lead.
Down a set and break, Alcaraz suddenly appeared unsure while the Russian upped the pressure with another break at 5-1, thanks to a sensational backhand down the line that had the capacity crowd gasping.
A routine hold and suddenly a tight contest was looking like a rout, with Alcaraz needing to do something he had never down before.
The 20-year-old Spaniard has done many things on a tennis court in his young career but had never come back from two sets down to win a match.
Backed into a corner, Alcaraz came out for the third with more determination, getting a momentum-building break with a cheeky lob to go up 3-1.
That was all Alcaraz would need, holding on to take the set 6-3 and the first step in his fight back.
The fourth set quickly became a battle of wills, particularly a tense 13-minute sixth game decided when Medvedev secure a hard-won break to get up 4-2.
A quick hold and all the pressure was on Alcaraz, his title defence on life support, needing a break to extend the contest.
Alcaraz would make one final stand in a breathtaking game that seesawed back and fourth, Medvedev needing four match points to close the deal. REUTERS
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