*Djokovic 1-0 Medvedev Ahahahaha! Djokovic begins with an ace down the middle then comes in off a backhand approach that’s too good on its own. Nicely done. A forehand winner follows, then a backhand into the net; Medvedev won’t feel like he’s in the match yet but he’s got a mini-sniff that’s quickly taken away from him, another serve out wide securing the game.
And … play.
at 3.52am EST
Right then. The players take their final little sit-down; Djokovic will serve.
My colleague Emma Kemp tells me that the woman who sung the Australian Open used the phrase “young and free” instead of the new, inclusive formulation “one and free”. A timely reminder that not everything is changing.
“I always love the optimistic notes about underdogs who get to this stage for them to be expertly dismantled by the, well, expert,” says Ramapriya. “Djokovic will boss this. Rod Laver and co will need to come up with excuses for why Medvedev wasn’t quite what he’s currently being trumped up to be.”
I’m not sure about that. Medvedev knows a lot, and has already come close in a major final.
Medvedev looks focused.
Here they come!
The perfunctory manner in which Medvedev disposed of Tsitsipas on Friday was very impressive. Admittedly he was recovering from the physical and emotional dump of recovering from two sets down to beat Nadal, but Medvedev was merciless.
Mischa Zverev reckons that Medvedev needs pace on the ball, so Djokovic should vary the speed of his groundstrokes. My guess is we see him come to the net a fair bit, but that’s fraught with danger given how flat Medvedev hits it.
Ovbviously Dominic Thiem won the US Open, but the last time someone other than him, him or him won a slam in which him, him and him played was Stan Wawrinka, who won at Flushing Meadow in 2016. Combined, they’ve won 61 of the last 70.
at 3.36am EST
More from Jonathan Howcroft: “The final five minutes before the walk-ons are precious real estate, so… there’s a musical theatre number from the cast of Come From Away, a show about checks notes 9/11 and Canada. No, me neither.”
On Eurosport, Mats reckons that Medvedev is the toughest emotional challenge for Djokovic and I agree. He has the least that can wrong, both with his game and in his head. I’d be staggered if he doesn’t turn up tonight.
Here’s more from him: “The final match of the 2021 Australian Open will take place in probably the coolest conditions of the tournament and under washed-out skies. The splashes of colour around Melbourne Park are more welcome than ever, including Novak Djokovic’s portrait, Nole’s fans, and the final of the Glam Slam on Court 3. Surprisingly, there were more cheers inside RLA for Daniil Medvedev than the eight-time champion when their names were called a few moments ago.”
Our man Jonathan Howcroft is on the ground at Melbourne Park. Rod Laver Arena will be 85% full tonight, which is a beautiful thing.
Of those three, Medvedev is readiest. Thiem is a beautiful mover, the best on tour, but mentally he’s not as impervious to it all, while Tsitsipas has more shots so more that can go wrong.
It’s funny really, we seem to be at a similar stage in the women’s game. For the first time in a generation, Serena’s best is no longer the best, and her not best isn’t enough to take care of the best. My guess is that Naomi Osaka and Iga Swiatek take it away from here, just as Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Thiem look ready to do too.
So how do we think this is going to go? Well, I feel silly even saying this, but I’m going to say Medvedev in five. Zverev took Djokovic to a decider without playing that well and without ever really looking like he might win; Medvedev is better than him and will play better than that, and though Djokovic is and will too, it just feels like the wheel is turning.
at 3.05am EST
Bob Marley once sung that “none of them can stop the time,” an idea expanded upon by Nas who declared that “time is illmatic” – not just an incredible force but the incredible force and necessarily, implacably, essentially so.
All very true, but neither man had experienced a pandemic. Things are different now, and the way in which we measure our lives might never be the same, the simple passage of days taking on different meaning or meaning nothing at all. How on earth can we grasp what’s happened and what’s happening, if we have no context in which to set it? If everything stops – if we don’t experience joy, change and the touch of those closest to us – then are we even alive?
Well, tennis is here to save us. If Daniil Medvedev beats Novak Djokovic, then for the first time since July 2003, the best men’s player in the world won’t be him, him, him or him. It’s true that a win won’t take Medvedev to number one, but ultimately it’s about winning majors not topping lists, and ya boy has won 20 matches straight, 13 of them against top-10 players. If he can augment that run by just one, then we can be sure that we’re not stuck in what Doc Emmet Brown called a “paradox”; that we really do exist.
Medvedev has won three of the last four meetings between the players, and is that rarity on tour: someone who annoys rather than is annoyed by Djokovic. Somehow, the Serbian is spooked by an opponent with no deadly weapons who’s about nothing but hitting the round thing into the rectangular thing, over and over again, right close to the baseline where it’s hard to get back.
And so he should be. Competing against someone as monomaniacal as Medvedev is no joke, all the more so when your game is about sticking in rallies longer than your opponent, and though Djokovic’s angled forehand – that hook shot from the centre that pretty much only he can play – will cause trouble, it’s not one to unfurl on every point. He’ll have performed some serious thinking to get ready for this.
Of course, Djokovic has already done 17 times what Medvedev is trying to do for the first time, and that is a significant factor in his favour, so too that he’s serving more aces than ever before. But he’s playing an opponent he knows will turn up and the injury he’s carrying will remind him that, as Leonard Cohen reminds us, it’s later than he thinks. For professional sportsmen, time will always exist – and this might just be epochal.
Play: 7.30am local, 8.30am GMT
at 2.42am EST