When the Davis Cup Group Stage draw came out, the tennis world expected another clash between Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz, the world's best players. Spain and Serbia will compete in Valencia on Friday without a blockbuster duel, with Carlos skipping the Davis Cup action following the US Open semi-final loss.
Novak joined the Serbian squad on Wednesday, less than three days after securing his 24th Major title in New York. Djokovic is eager to guide his country toward the Davis Cup Finals in Malaga, setting his eyes on the team trophy.
Alcaraz failed to defend his US Open crown, falling to Daniil Medvedev in the semi-final and trailing over 3000 ATP points to Djokovic on the newest ATP ranking list. While Novak celebrated the trophy, Carlos experienced a tough 7-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 loss to Daniil in three hours and 19 minutes.
It was a high-quality clash, with more winners than unforced errors on each tally. Medvedev played better in the decisive moments, fending off eight out of nine break chances and delivering four breaks from seven opportunities to make the difference.
Daniil dominated with his first serve, taking 20 points more than Carlos and breaking his resistance in the fourth set. Alcaraz made a better start, serving well and pressuring his rival's serve. Daniil survived deuces in the second game and two break points in the fourth to lock the result at 2-2.
They served well in the remaining games and introduced a tie break. The Russian grabbed two mini-breaks at 4-3, creating two set points and seizing the first with a forehand down the line winner for 7-6 after 56 minutes. Daniil was the only player on the court in the second set, serving well and breaking Carlos two times.
Medvedev broke in the second game before creating more break chances two games later. Alcaraz denied them but lost serve again in game six after Medvedev's incredible backhand.
Novak Djokovic wanted to face Carlos Alcaraz in the Davis Cup Group Stage.
Daniil held at 30 in game seven to wrap up the set 6-1, building a massive advantage after an hour and 33 minutes.
Alcaraz stepped in, serving well in the third set and seeking a desired break. He broke the Russian with a lob winner, opening a 3-1 gap and gaining confidence. The young gun fired a service winner in the ninth game to clinch the set and extend his chances.
Medvedev denied three break chances in the fourth set's third game and gained a boost. Alcaraz squandered seven game points at 2-3, experiencing a costly break after Medvedev's sharp return and falling behind. Daniil served for the victory in game nine and faced three break points.
He denied them and converted the fourth match point with a smash winner at the net, emerging at the top and arranging the title clash versus Novak Djokovic. After missing the Davis Cup action, Alcaraz should be back on the court in Beijing from September 28.
"I expected to play against Carlos in Valencia. He is a player I respect a lot, and we have already had a couple of challenging matches," Novak Djokovic said.