Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks ahead to the latest in tennis. Today, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews day 14 of the 2021 US Open.
This one is, as they say, for all the marbles.
When Daniil Medvedev and Novak Djokovic step on the court inside Arthur Ashe Stadium as the top two seeds, they’ll play for a chance to etch their name in the history books.
If the Russian wins, he’ll cement his place as the young player most likely to take the torch from Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer. If Medvedev wins, then all of a sudden maybe it means that the new age of men’s tennis has arrived a bit earlier than we might have expected.
If Djokovic wins, well then that also makes things interesting. If Djokovic wins, then he’ll have won a fourth US Open title, a fourth Grand Slam title in 2021 alone, and a 21st career Grand Slam title. If Djokovic wins, then he’ll have settled for all intents and purposes the debate on who the greatest player of all time is in men’s tennis.
Look, that’s not just us saying this.
The bottom line
For our money, the goat debate is already over. Because if Djokovic wins, then it will be merely another place where he has the advantage. If Djokovic wins, then he’ll have accomplished the calendar-year Grand Slam, won the most Grand Slam titles of all time, won the most Masters 1000 titles ever, have the positive head-to-head record against Federer, and Nadal, have won every single big event in the world twice when no one has done it once, captured the most year-end World No. 1 nods, as well as the most weeks overall at No. 1, and just a bunch of other things.
But if you ask the man himself, then you don’t see all of the above. You’re just looking at Sunday’s final like another US Open final.
“There is only one match left. All in. Let’s do it. …I’m going to treat the next match Ike it’s the last match of my career.”
What a heckin’ cool weekend ahead for the #USOpen , you guys.
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) September 11, 2021
(An aside here: we know that’s not what he means, but can you imagine if Djokovic was to decide to retire right then and there if he wins the 2021 US Open title? God, our heart is not prepared.)
All those years ago, we apparently collectively decided to crown Federer as the greatest player in men’s tennis history. His case relied, mostly, on the most weeks spent at No. 1 and on the most Grand Slam titles. In the years since, Djokovic has equalled or surpassed Federer on both fronts. If it was enough to crown the Swiss, then surely it should be enough to crown the Serb?
Win or lose, Djokovic stands as the greatest player in ATP history. But let’s hope he wins.
Day 14 preview
For the last time of this year’s event, we ask that you please read below for our prediction on who will win this year’s US Open on the men’s side. The entire day 14 schedule is right here if you need it.
Arthur Ashe Stadium: Daniil Medvedev  vs Novak Djokovic  (Not before 4pm local time)
As has become patently clear, it’s nearly impossible to beat Djokovic from the baseline over the course of five sets. The Serb has damn near been happy to give away sets to his opponents over the previous two weeks: only once has he won in straight sets in what was far from an easy draw. Compared to Djokovic, Medvedev has had an almost flawless run to the final. It’s not so much that he hasn’t been tested, but rather that he’s rendered any notion of an opponent challenging him absolutely ludicrous.
Ultimately, Djokovic profiles as the favourite in this men’s final because of his vast experience and his current form. The Serb has a capacity to live precisely in the moment and to elevate his play at just the right time. That’s maybe his biggest advantage against everyone else: not only is his ceiling higher than most, and not only is his floor higher than most as well, but Djokovic is absolutely relentless and his level almost never dips.
When you face Djokovic, you must never, ever let up. Because he won’t.
About that final prediction
Look, it’s foolish to try to act like we could be objective or leave our emotions out of this one. As some great poets of our time once said, we didn’t come this far just to come this far. The task ahead of Djokovic is quite daunting, but the least we can do is play our part in cheering him from home.
Here’s to hoping that Djokovic will be the absolute opposite of us, which is to say stoic, calm, determined, and full of self-belief because that’s all that we won’t be. Let’s go, Novak! Make history!!! Idemoooooo! Djokovic wins it in four sets.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG