These days, Medvedev isn’t likely to be intimidated by anyone in tennis, and he has particular reasons to feel comfortable against Djokovic.
Medvedev has won three of his seven previous meetings against Djokovic, including a semifinal at the Cincinnati Masters in 2019 on a fast hardcourt that played similarly to the courts in Melbourne this year.
In the fourth round of the 2019 Australian Open, he lost to Djokovic, who received extra treatment because of all the exertion and contortion required to beat Medvedev.
“It was hard to go through him,” Djokovic said that night. “It was kind of a cat-and-mouse game for most of the match — that’s why it was so lengthy. We had rallies of 40, 45 exchanges. That’s why I think it was physically exhausting, because of the fact that we didn’t really allow each other to think that we can make a lot of unforced errors and give away points.”
In the third round this year at the Open, Djokovic sustained an abdominal injury in his match against Taylor Fritz. Djokovic initially spoke pessimistically about his chances of continuing in the tournament, but he has seemed less affected by the injury in each subsequent match, even as his right side remains heavily taped under his shirt.
To find the last final in which a male player claimed his first Grand Slam title against an older finalist who had already won one, you need to go back all the way to the 2009 United States Open, where Juan Martín del Potro beat Roger Federer.
When Dominic Thiem won his first Grand Slam title at last year’s U.S. Open, he did it almost literally by default, after Djokovic had been disqualified from the tournament in the round of 16 when he swatted a stray ball in frustration and hit a lineswoman in the throat.