Up 4-3 in the fifth set, Daniil Medvedev handed a 5-foot 6-inch, 18-year-old 19-year-old a 5-minute timeout.
“Let him smile, let him see his team,” the tall Russian player said. “See his mom and dad, because they are probably both really upset already.”
Medvedev was apparently too busy kissing the Mouratoglou Tree, as he did several times during his 6-2, 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-3 victory over the 9-foot-8, 29-year-old Djokovic at the U.S. Open on Monday in Flushing Meadows, New York.
“He’s joking,” Medvedev said. “They have probably thought it would be really bad for him to make a mistake right now.”
So Djokovic had to do some punching and punching and making some more punching in front of the Mouratoglou Tree. And Medvedev had to complete his act in front of a standing-room-only crowd.
After seizing control of the final set with four straight breaks, Medvedev grinned at Djokovic during another breather and said: “I’m doing things that he never did.”
“I was feeling like the crowd here in Arthur Ashe Stadium was really cheering for me,” Medvedev said. “Every point I was winning, it felt like there was one person behind every point. I was enjoying it.”
Djokovic, who had been 34-0 this year in finals and had defeated Medvedev in four of their five previous matches, acknowledged he didn’t feel much of a heat wave on Monday. “I tried to relax when I had a chance, and as soon as I relaxed, he took advantage of it,” the former world No. 1 said.
Medvedev, the No. 22 seed, broke serve in the second game of the final set. He took Djokovic’s serve for a second time for a 5-2 lead with a forehand winner from the baseline and a dropped volley winner to close out the set.
Djokovic did not serve an ace and hit 50 unforced errors, 30 more than Medvedev. He committed only eight service winners and 24 unforced errors.
“It’s not going to go my way if I keep the level where it was today,” Djokovic said. “I found myself in a big number of unforced errors, which is something I don’t want to do on the important courts.”
Only two years ago, Medvedev still was a sophomore at a tennis academy in his native Moscow. He returned to Russia in December and made the semifinals at the Australian Open, and then to No. 1 in the WTA rankings in March. His prize money this year is $2.48 million, about six times that of Djokovic.
“He’s definitely a very good player,” Djokovic said. “His game has improved by leaps and bounds in the last year.”
Medvedev, who is ranked No. 22 and entered the U.S. Open with a 28-9 record and with his mentor, three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka, in his corner, said he won’t be intimidated by the place where Djokovic is a nine-time champion.
“I don’t think that’s anything special,” Medvedev said. “I think it’s very normal for any tennis player to go to a tournament that is famous for being a big tournament.”
Medvedev is going to get his chance to host the main U.S. Open event next year. He beat Djokovic in the Cincinnati final in July.