Nor does he look it.
Before Sunday’s match, Lleyton Hewitt, a former world No. 1 and a two-time Grand Slam champion in the 2000s, said Medvedev was going to need to create a moment to make himself believe that he could beat Djokovic on this night, on this court, like when Hewitt won the first-set tiebreaker against Pete Sampras in his first triumph at a Grand Slam final.
The first test came early for Medvedev, after Djokovic broke him in his first service game and cruised to a 3-0 lead. But a game later, Medvedev outclassed Djokovic on a 28-shot rally that had both players sliding from sideline to sideline to get his first chance to break Djokovic’s serve. Minutes later it was 3-3. Game on.
Five games later the set appeared headed for a tiebreaker, but the moment of truth for Medvedev arrived sooner. Serving at 5-6 and down a point, he sent a forehand wide with Djokovic pushing to the net, and caught a bad break as what could have been the winning shot on the next point ticked the top of the net cord and gave Djokovic a sitter for an easy passing shot.
Just like that, triple set point. Big serves saved the first two, but then Medvedev sent a forehand into the net. The big hill that no one in Medvedev’s generation has been able to summit suddenly seemed that much higher.
After prevailing in that first set, Djokovic shifted from a steady run into a sprint. He broke Medvedev three times in the second set and had him breaking one racket, swatting the ground with its replacement and shrugging his shoulders at his coach, as if to say there was nothing he could do.
“Even if I would have done better, it doesn’t mean that the score would be different,” he said.
On match point, Djokovic rose for a lob, stretched and whipped one last winner past Medvedev. He collapsed in celebration on the court then rose quickly, pumping his arms at his box and the crowd. By March, he will have spent more weeks holding the No. 1 ranking than any other man. The reign goes on, for Djokovic and for the Big Three.