Daniil Medvedev capped off an incredible North American hardcourt swing by winning his first Grand Slam title at the 2021 US Open.
Medvedev's stunning upset win over Novak Djokovic in the final also ended the Serb's hopes of securing the Calendar Slam. The Russian now finds himself within touching distance of denying Djokovic another career milestone -- a seventh year-end no. 1 finish.
Djokovic currently has a total of six year-end no. 1 trophies -- tied with his idol Pete Sampras -- and is well positioned to take home the crown for a record-breaking seventh time. However, his heartbreaking loss in New York has seemingly left the remainder of Djokovic's 2021 in limbo.
The World No. 1 is scheduled to play the Indian Wells Masters and the ATP Finals later this year, but in a recent interaction with Serbian media, he declared having "no plans" for the rest of the year.
"Let me tell you - I have no plan, absolutely nothing," Novak Djokovic was quoted as saying by Serbian media. "I don't know if I'm going to play anything, anywhere… I'm just here in New York right now."
That leaves the door wide open for Medvedev, who is around 2000 points behind the Serb in the ATP's official Race to Turin Rankings. Even though the COVID-adjusted rankings would make it difficult for the Russian to reach Djokovic's points tally, this year the Race to Turin will determine the year-end No. 1 ranking.
In effect, Medvedev could theoretically be No. 2 in the rankings and No. 1 in the race, which would still make him the year-end No. 1.
Indian Wells, Paris and ATP Finals crucial in Daniil Medvedev's bid to secure year-end no. 1
During his press conference after the US Open final, Medvedev spoke about optimizing his schedule to accommodate the remaining big tournaments -- Indian Wells, Paris Masters and the ATP Finals. The World No. 2 also admitted to having his eye on finishing first in the ATP Race.
"I don't know in the race if I am far behind Novak," Medvedev said. "If we talk about schedule, what can I change? There is Indian Wells, there is Paris Bercy, Turin, and Vienna. Vienna is in the week of St. Petersburg. I'm definitely not going to play it, because I probably won't play St. Pete also."
"Let's hope I win Indian Wells, Bercy and Turin. It's a tough challenge. I'm just happy to win a Major. I'm going to do my best in every tournament I'm playing. I'm going to see what I'm going to do with the schedule," he added.
Given his unwillingness to play any of the upcoming ATP 500 and 250 tournaments, Medvedev will need to ensure strong showings in the two Masters 1000 events scheduled to be played in October (Indian Wells) and November (Paris).
Medvedev currently has 6380 points in the ATP Race to Turin rankings and trails Djokovic (8370) by 1990. Title runs at both Indian Wells and Paris would see the Russian open a 10-point cushion over Djokovic heading into the year-end finale in Turin.
Daniil Medvedev is the man to beat on hardcourts
With a total of 148 wins on hardcourts since 2018, Medvedev is the most successful player on the surface in that time period. That, in addition to the title at the most recent hardcourt Slam, will make the Russian a firm favorite to take home the trophies in the upcoming Masters 1000 events.
If he were to win back-to-back titles in Indian Wells and Paris, Medvedev would head into the ATP Finals with 8380 points, with Djokovic breathing down his neck at 8370. In such a scenario, the Russian would just need to match Djokovic's result at the ATP Finals to seal the year-end No. 1 ranking.
Andy Murray was the last player to pull off a last-minute steal from Djokovic by winning the 2016 ATP Finals. Medvedev will be looking to follow in the Brit's footsteps.
After his US Open win, the Russian admitted that his triumph felt "sweeter" knowing that he had stopped an all-time great from completing an elusive feat. Winning the year-end no. 1 trophy whilst denying Djokovic two separate career milestones would further Medvedev's status as the leader of the Next Gen.