Novak Djokovic beats Ben Shelton in straight sets to reach the US Open final – where he’ll play Daniil Medvedev

Novak Djokovic handed Ben Shelton a lesson at the US Open last night, and then ruthlessly mocked him in the moment of his semi-final win. 

Immediately after completing his passage by a 6-3 6-2 7-6 margin the 36 year-old Serb mimicked the young American’s previous victory gesture of holding an imaginary phone to his ear – and then taking it one step further by slamming down the receiver.

Shelton had continued to captivate Flushing Meadows, but was ultimately handed a schooling by the clinical champion sixteen years his senior.

Asked about Djokovic’s on court dig Shelton said: ‘As a kid growing up I always learned that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, that’s all I’ve got to say about that.’ 

Djokovic is back in the US Open final, a record equaling tenth, after being banned from entering the country last year for not being vaccinated.

Novak Djokovic moved one step closer to the 24th grand slam singles title of his famed career

Novak Djokovic moved one step closer to the 24th grand slam singles title of his famed career

Novak Djokovic moved one step closer to the 24th grand slam singles title of his famed career

Djokovic mocked Shelton's trademark celebration of answering a call & hanging up the phone

Djokovic mocked Shelton's trademark celebration of answering a call & hanging up the phone

Djokovic mocked Shelton’s trademark celebration of answering a call & hanging up the phone

The 36 year-old kept his end of the bargain in setting up a repeat of this summer’s classic Wimbledon showdown, and was left awaiting to see if he would be joined by Carlos Alcaraz, who was tackling Daniil Medvedev in the second match.

Until the closing stages of this semi-final Djokovic was the old master handing out a lesson to a recently emerged college player. Shelton, a ball of quickfire energy, clearly has a big upside to him and offered a late challenge after he broke back for 4-4 in the third set, but he never looked like springing the upset.

‘These are the kind of occasions I thrive on,’ said Djokovic.’ Grand Slams motivate me to play my best tennis. I knew I would play an American, things were going smoothly for me and then he broke back and it was anyone’s game at the end, I had to stay calm.’

Shelton came out to a stadium that had the roof closed due to stormy weather that looked set to snap the brutal heat and humidity experienced here in recent days.

There was a crack of thunder overhead in the first set, and something similar on the court as the young American began throwing one haymaker after another at the great champion, with distinctly mixed results.

The roof raises the noise level of constant chatter and hollering around Arthur Ashe, and the febrile atmosphere probably added to the adrenaline that was already coursing through the young American’s veins.

To the delight of the packed crowd he was soon using his golden left arm to deliver 140 mph serves, and one audacious second delivery got as high as 143mph. While they play with different hands, there is definitely the same can’t-take-your-eyes-off-him factor as there is with a properly functioning Nick Kyrgios.

Shelton’s problem is that not much fazes Djokovic, whose game is perfectly equipped to absorb pace and return any serve that is physically answerable.

Playing at a much slower tempo, he was quite happy to watch some unreturnable serves fly his way, knowing full well that they would be accompanied by opportunities to break.

Despite a gallant fightback in the final set, Ben Shelton was unable to capitalize in the breaker

Despite a gallant fightback in the final set, Ben Shelton was unable to capitalize in the breaker

Despite a gallant fightback in the final set, Ben Shelton was unable to capitalize in the breaker

Djokovic took control of the encounter early, winning the opening set 6-3 and the second 6-2

Djokovic took control of the encounter early, winning the opening set 6-3 and the second 6-2

Djokovic took control of the encounter early, winning the opening set 6-3 and the second 6-2

It was not long before the American was racking up unforced errors by going for more than he needed to. He contributed nine in the first six games, and that was enough for the Serb to collect a 4-2 lead.

Djokovic’s biggest discomfort came when serving at 5-3 as he went break point down, accompanied by an almighty din. His opponent tried to clinch it by absolutely crunching a forehand, only managing to thump it into the net.

The second set was a similar tale, the American taking his unforced error toll towards 30 by the back end of it, while the far more measured Djokovic was barely nudging double figures.

Another big difference was the rate of success at the net, which is one of the areas where the raw youngster needs more sophistication. Every time Djokovic went there he won the point, while Shelton’s dinks and volleys often flew wide or resulted in easy putaways.

His best phase came when he went for more consistency late on, but he was always behind after forcing the tiebreak and conceded it 7-4. That will have been part of this excellent education.

‘These are the kind of occasions I thrive on,’ said Djokovic.’ Grand Slams motivate me to play my best tennis. I knew I would play an American, things were going smoothly for me and then he broke back and it was anyone’s game at the end, I had to stay calm.’

Shelton came out to a stadium that had the roof closed due to stormy weather that looked set to snap the brutal heat and humidity experienced here in recent days.

There was a crack of thunder overhead in the first set, and something similar on the court as the young American began throwing one haymaker after another at the great champion, with distinctly mixed results.

The roof raises the noise level of constant chatter and hollering around Arthur Ashe, and the febrile atmosphere probably added to the adrenaline that was already coursing through the young American’s veins.

To the delight of the packed crowd he was soon using his golden left arm to deliver 140 mph serves, and one audacious second delivery got as high as 143mph. While they play with different hands, there is definitely the same can’t-take-your-eyes-off-him factor as there is with a properly functioning Nick Kyrgios.

The gallant Atlanta, Georgia native let out his frustrations during the match vs. the No. 2 seed

The gallant Atlanta, Georgia native let out his frustrations during the match vs. the No. 2 seed

The gallant Atlanta, Georgia native let out his frustrations during the match vs. the No. 2 seed

Legendary singer Jon Bon Jovi was in attendance for the engaging battle between the pair

Legendary singer Jon Bon Jovi was in attendance for the engaging battle between the pair

Legendary singer Jon Bon Jovi was in attendance for the engaging battle between the pair

Shelton’s problem is that not much fazes Djokovic, whose game is perfectly equipped to absorb pace and return any serve that is physically answerable.

Playing at a much slower tempo, he was quite happy to watch some unreturnable serves fly his way, knowing full well that they would be accompanied by opportunities to break.

It was not long before the American was racking up unforced errors by going for more than he needed to. He contributed nine in the first six games, and that was enough for the Serb to collect a 4-2 lead.

Djokovic’s biggest discomfort came when serving at 5-3 as he went break point down, accompanied by an almighty din. His opponent tried to clinch it by absolutely crunching a forehand, only managing to thump it into the net.

The second set was a similar tale, the American taking his unforced error toll towards 30 by the back end of it, while the far more measured Djokovic was barely nudging double figures.

Another big difference was the rate of success at the net, which is one of the areas where the raw youngster needs more sophistication. Every time Djokovic went there he won the point, while Shelton’s dinks and volleys often flew wide or resulted in easy putaways.

His best phase came when he went for more consistency late on, but he was always behind in the 7-4 tiebreak. That will have been part of this excellent education.

 

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