Novak Djokovic became one win away from winning his 24th major title on Friday when he beat American Ben Shelton 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (4) to reach his 10th US Open final, equaling Bill Tilden’s record. .
In his 100th match on major hard courts, the three-time champion showed why he is widely considered the greatest returner of all time. The Serbian player showed great anticipation and was able to neutralize Shelton’s strong serve to win after two hours and 40 minutes against the 20-year-old, who became the youngest American to reach the semi-finals since Michael Chang in 1992.
“These are the matches and occasions where I still shine, encourage me to move forward, and inspire me every day to try to work as hard as the young players,” Djokovic said. “Major tournaments are what motivates me the most to give my best and give my best performance. I knew before the quarter-finals that I would face an American player and this is not easy at all. Control my nerves and be calm in the important moments. Today things were going really smoothly for me and then he broke back and it was either team’s game at the end of the third set. “This is the kind of atmosphere we all like to play in, so I’m really, really happy with the win today.”
Djokovic, who broke Shelton five times, reached all four Grand Slam finals in the same season for the third time in his career (2015, 21). The 36-year-old also continued his quest to become the oldest man to win a US Open singles title in the Open Era (since 1968). 35-year-old Ken Rosewall was victorious at Flushing Meadows in 1970.
“Discipline is everything,” Djokovic said as he reached his 36th Grand Slam final. “I think it’s a combination of discipline, willpower and clarity of what you want to do.” “What are your short and long term goals? I have had the pleasure of playing this sport for many years and have achieved a lot. I still feel like I have something in my legs. I feel like I still have a lot to offer the team.” sports. “Another Grand Slam final, I couldn’t be happier.”
Djokovic won four titles in 2023, including major titles at the Australian Open and Roland Garros. He will compete for his 24th Grand Slam title on Sunday against Carlos Alcaraz or Daniil Medvedev. Djokovic, who holds an 87-13 record at the US Open, lost to Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final.
Djokovic said: “I expect it to be the most difficult match in the tournament, despite who will be next to me across the net.” “They’re both great players. They’re in great form. Daniel won against me in the final two years ago. He’s probably been the most consistent player at the US Open in the last five years. Then you have Carlos. “What he’s achieved at 20 is unbelievable. He’s a great player and great for our sport. “It will be an interesting match for me.”
Shelton reached the quarterfinals in his Australian Open debut in January, but failed to win consecutive matches in his next 18 tour-level events before arriving in New York. Armed with a deadly serve, a devastating game and youthful freedom, Shelton showed the world what he was capable of in the final match of the season.
The 20-year-old, who is currently fourth in the Pepperstone ATP head-to-head race to Jeddah, upset seeds Tommy Paul and Frances Tiafoe, hitting two 149mph serves against the former to become the first unseeded qualifier to a US Open semi-final. Since Grigor Dimitrov in 2019.
However, Shelton, who studied at the University of Florida, was unable to fight his way past Djokovic in their first encounter with the Lexus ATP Head2Head. The Serbian quickly adapted to Shelton’s left-handed serve, dealing with the pace and variety of the American’s strokes to force the 20-year-old into exchanging volleys from the baseline.
The 20-year-old served 143 mph to hold the score at 1-0 at the start of the second set, hitting several forehands and volleys. From down 2-4 in the third set, Shelton rallied to take a set point on Djokovic’s serve at 4-5. The second seed overcame his first serve, as Shelton struggled to extend his magical moments into long periods of consistency. After a 5-5 tie, Djokovic recovered from failing to serve at 6-5, and increased his intensity in the tie-break to claim his 44th win of the season.
Djokovic won 84 percent (56/67) of his first serve points, hit 28 winners against 25 unforced errors and won 88 percent (23/26) of the net points in a consistent display under the roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The 36-year-old also extended his winning streak to 31 matches against the Americans, after defeating Taylor Fritz in the quarter-finals. Djokovic’s last loss to an American was at Wimbledon in 2016, when Sam Querrey defeated him in four sets.
Shelton leaves New York up 28 spots to 19th in the live Pepperstone ATP rankings and is set to break into the top 20 for the first time on Monday.
Did you know?
Djokovic has reached 36 Grand Slam finals. He reached his first major title match at the US Open in 2007 (vs. Roger Federer).
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