Daniil Medvedev paid pro-forma tribute to missing rival Novak Djokovic on Friday before getting on with his job of defending his 2021 US Open title.

The Serb assured his own absence by refusing to get COVID-jabbed, the same hardline stand which got him deported from Australia at the start of the season.

“I mean, I wish he would play here,” top seed Medvedev said. “We saw it in Wimbledon. He (Djokovic) didn’t play many tournaments this year. He came there, he won. He’s such a champion,

“His rivallry against Rafa (Nadal) is really I feel like heating up in a way. 22, 21 (Grand Slam singles titles) – a joke of a number. 

“It’s a pity he’s not here. It would be a great story I think for tennis.”

But Medvedev,  banned himself from Wimbledon due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is ready to get on with his tennis no matter whom he faces on court.

“It’s an American government rule – completely understandable also,” he said.

Medvedev crushed Djokovic in last year’s final, lifting the trophy with a straight-sets win.

“It’s a special moment to win a slam. I’m motivated to try to do it again. I was really close at the Australian Open (he lost the final to Nadal).

“I want to try to do something big here.”