Top seed Novak Djokovic is all set to face second seed Daniil Medvedev in the final of the US Open on Sunday. Djokovic is on the verge of creating history; winning the final would give him his his 21st Grand Slam title and also make him only the second man in the Open Era to win all four Majors in a single calendar year.
Medvedev meanwhile is yet to win a Grand Slam title, despite having played two finals earlier. The 25-year-old would be keen to avenge his loss against Djokovic in the Australian Open final earlier this year.
On that note, here's a look at three factors that might determine the fate of Sunday's match:
#1 Can Daniil Medvedev take advantage of the fact that he'll be fresher than Novak Djokovic?
Daniil Medvedev has had a relatively easy route to the final, losing only one set at the 2021 US Open so far. He outclassed his Canadian opponent Felix Auger-Alliasime in straight sets in the semifinal on Friday, and should be fairly fresh for Sunday's final.
Novak Djokovic, on the other hand, has had to toil hard in the tournament so far, having won only one of his six matches in straight sets. In each of the other five matches, he lost the opening set before going on to find his best tennis just in the nick of time.
The Serb beat Alexander Zverev in a grueling five-setter in the semifinal, and could possibly suffer from fatigue in the final against Medvedev. The considerable age-gap between the two should further tilt the scales in the Russian’s favor.
However, Djokovic's resilience and fighting spirit are the stuff of legend, and it is unlikely that he will fade away. It would be up to Medvedev to make the difference in energy levels count, and move the World No. 1 all over the court to take his legs away.
If Medvedev doesn't extend the rallies and put Djokovic on the run enough, the fatigue factor wouldn't be much of a factor at all.
#2 Who will win the battle of the great backhands?
Both Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev possess great backhands, and the final should witness a lot of crosscourt backhand exchanges. Djokovic also has the ability to switch things up at will, and his down-the-line backhand is particularly effective.
It remains to be seen whether Medvedev can match that and unleash his own down-the-line backhand into the open court after pinning Djokovic in the far corner. Kei Nishikori troubled the Serb a little with his backhand down-the-line in their third-round clash, and Medevedev would need to take notes from that.
At the same time, the Russian would have to be prepared for Djokovic's down-the-line backhands and give himself enough time to hit his crosscourt forehand with depth. If he is caught off-guard by the World No. 1's change-up, he will face an uphill battle in the longer exchanges.
Djokovic also has the ability to use the drop shot to drag his opponent to the net, but that strategy might very well backfire against the speedy Medvedev. This match is unlikely to see a lot of variety, so the result would largely depend on who executes the basics better.
#3 Will Novak Djokovic's big match temperament make the difference again?
Novak Djokovic is a proven winner and a legendary performer in big matches, having saved his best for the biggest stage numerous times in the past. The difficulty of beating someone like that might prove to be too much of a mental obstacle for Daniil Medvedev.
The Russian had performed creditably in the 2021 Australian Open prior to reaching the final, but surrendered meekly in the summit clash. To make matters worse, he also lost his temper in the match quite frequently.
Should such meltdowns occur again on Sunday, Djokovic would have no problem in winning his record 21st Grand Slam. Djokovic's mental strength helps him raise his game towards the closing stages of the match, and it is a tough task for any player to win three sets against him.
That said, Medvedev has also shown flashes of big-match temperament in the past, most notably in the 2019 US Open final against Rafael Nadal. If he can rise to the occasion on Sunday, the fans would be treated to an electrifying match.