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US Open 2023: Novak Djokovic beats Ben Shelton in semi-final to reach 36th Grand Slam final

US Open 2023: Novak Djokovic beats Ben Shelton in semi-final to reach 36th Grand Slam final

With pleasant temperatures at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday afternoon – the roof was closed due to rain – 20-year-old American shooting star Ben Shelton saw a bit of sunshine against veteran Novak Djokovic.

Rarely has the 2022 college champion been able to display his quality in his first Grand Slam semi-final, which he showed in the quarter-final against compatriot Frances Tiafoe. The American crowd was frantically cheering every stunning point the young man won, but he rarely had the opportunity to do so.

Djokovic said of his win: “These are the matches that I still enjoy the most, they tickle me, inspire me and make me get up in the morning to exercise. I try to work hard like young people.”

In his 100th US Open singles match, Djokovic rarely had to contend with the world-class power of Shelton, who came closer than ever to the first victory by an American since Andy Roddick in 2003.

Shelton only tied the third set

Both professionals faced each other for the first time – and Djokovic set the stage for victory from the start in a duel with the youngest player from the United States to reach the semi-finals since Michael Chang in 1992.

In the third round, the favorite also took a quick 4:2 lead before Shilton secured his first serve with only the second ball (4:4) and shortly afterwards at 5:4 he even earned a set point as the returning player. However, Djokovic countered this with a strong first serve and then broke the American to 6:5.

As he served for the match, Djokovic’s hand shook slightly – Shelton forced him into a tiebreak after another drop of serve. 2:41 hours later, Joker converted his second match point to reach the final, ending the Americans’ hope of a first home win in 20 years.

Djokovic “steals” Shelton’s celebration gesture

After match point, the Serbian showed off the receiver gesture that Shelton had created earlier – a simple pass on the rising American. “He bit his tongue for a long time and wanted to return the favor to the opponent at some point,” speculated Becker, who coached Djokovic to six Grand Slam titles from 2013-16.

Djokovic had already defeated a local champion in the previous round, Taylor Fritz (No. 9), and Shelton also beat two other Americans, Tommy Ball (No. 14) and Tiafoe (No. 10).

With his success against Shilton, Djokovic raised his record against domestic players in Grand Slams to 30:1 – only in the 2013 Wimbledon final did he lose to Briton Andy Murray (4:6, 5:7, 4:6).

Djokovic has his nerves under control

In the final, Djokovic will face Daniil Medvedev, as in 2021, who surprisingly beat Carlos Alcaraz 7:6 (7:3), 6:1, 3:6, 6:3. The Serbian player said: “No matter the opponent, it will be the most difficult match in the tournament for me.”

The Russian ruined the Grand Slam for Djokovic two years ago, meaning he won all four major tournaments within one year. Overall, the Serbian has a 9:5 winning record over Medvedev.

Djokovic has reached his 36th Grand Slam final with 36

In his last 19 Grand Slam appearances since Wimbledon 2018, Djokovic has reached the semifinals 16 times, 15 of which he reached the final – only in the semifinals of the 2019 French Open falling short in five sets to Dominic Thiem.
In all, this was Djokovic’s 47th Grand Slam semifinal (a record), in which he lost just 11 matches. On Sunday (10:00pm live), the 36-year-old Serbian will reach his 36th Grand Slam final and potentially win his 24th title. Either way, he will take over the top spot in the world rankings from Alcaraz.

“Discipline, willpower and clarity about what you want to achieve in the short and long term” got him this far, Djokovic said. “I’m lucky that I’ve been able to play this sport successfully for a long time. But I still have the feeling that I still have something in my legs and I can still give something to this sport.”

At the French Open, Djokovic already became the record holder with his 23rd victory. But in New York, the Serbian has won just three times (2011, 2015, 2018) and lost in the final six times (2007, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2016, 2021) – his worst Grand Slam final record. Of the year.