Novak Djokovic faces arguably his toughest challenge yet in keeping the next generation at bay, with in-form Daniil Medvedev standing in the way of his bid to win a ninth Australian Open title.
Medvedev, 25, extended his winning run to 20 matches with a 6-4 6-2 7-5 victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas at Melbourne Park to reach his second grand slam final.
That run has brought him titles at the Paris Masters, ATP Finals and ATP Cup, while Friday’s victory, which briefly became complicated in the third set before a stunning backhand pass turned things back in his favour, was his 12th in a row over top-10 opponents.
Apart from Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, beating Djokovic on Rod Laver Arena is the toughest challenge in men’s tennis. On the eight occasions the world number one has reached the last four in Melbourne, he has won the title.
The Serbian could enjoy a day off on Friday, having beaten Aslan Karatsev on Thursday, and he was keen to press home the message that the slams remain the domain of the big three, telling Eurosport: “There has been a lot of talk about the new generations coming and taking over from the three of us but realistically that isn’t happening still.
“With my respect to all the other guys, they still have a lot of work to do. I’m not going to stand here and hand it over to them. I am going to make them work for it.”
They are getting closer, though. Dominic Thiem won his first grand slam title at the US Open but without having to beat Djokovic, Nadal or Roger Federer.
Medvedev pushed Nadal to five sets in his first slam final at the US Open in 2019 while Djokovic was in real trouble at two sets to one down against Thiem in Melbourne last year before coming back to win.
Asked about Djokovic’s words, Medvedev said with a smile: “I know that to beat him you need to show your best tennis, be at your best physically maybe four or five hours, and be at your best mentally maybe for five hours.
“I would say to win a slam, especially against somebody as Novak, is already a big motivation, and I don’t think there is anything that can make it bigger. I don’t take these words for sure as something negative.”
Medvedev’s unique mix of metronomic tennis and athleticism coupled with an intelligent, open and sometimes spiky personality makes him a compelling figure.
Between Djokovic and Medvedev Who sings victory song and who will make due with lamentation song?