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Novak Djokovic back in U.S. Open final after beating Ben Shelton

Sep 8, 2023; Flushing, NY, USA; Novak Djokovic of Serbia shakes hands with Ben Shelton of the United States (L) after their match in a men's singles semifinal on day twelve of the 2023 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Second-seeded Novak Djokovic punched his ticket into his 10th career U.S. Open final by sweeping 20-year-old Ben Shelton 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (4) in the semifinals on Friday afternoon in New York.

Djokovic will be aiming for his 24th career Grand Slam title on Sunday when he faces either top-seeded Carlos Alcaraz of Spain or third-seeded Daniil Medvedev of Russia. Those two former U.S. Open champions meet Friday night.

“I expect the toughest match of the tournament for me, regardless of who is going to be across the net,” Djokovic said after beating Shelton. “Both of them are amazing players. They are in a great, great form, obviously.”

Djokovic’s 10th appearance in the U.S. Open final will match Bill Tilden’s record. Djokovic is 3-6 in U.S. Open title matches.

Djokovic has reached the final of all four Grand Slam events in the same calendar year for the third time, matching the record shared by Roger Federer and Steffi Graf. He also did it in 2015 and 2021.

Shelton had a 30-28 edge in winners but made 43 unforced errors in the two-hour, 41-minute match. He did save 9 of 14 break points. Djokovic committed 25 unforced errors.

The Serbian looked like he would have an easy time on Friday by controlling the first two sets against Shelton, who was playing in a major semifinal for the first time.

Djokovic led 4-2 in the third set before Shelton showed life by winning three straight games. Djokovic recovered to win the next two games before Shelton won the 12th game of the set to force the tiebreaker.

Djokovic won the first three points of the tiebreaker and later led 5-1 before Shelton won the next three points to rouse the pro-American crowd.

The 36-year-old Djokovic then won the final two points to sew up the match.

“These are the kind of matches and occasions that I still thrive on,” Djokovic said after reaching his 36th major final. “They still get me going and inspire me to wake up every day trying to work as the young guys. Grand Slams are the ones that count the most in our sport and obviously the ones that motivate me the most and play my best tennis.”

Djokovic is 2-2 all-time against Alcaraz, including a five-set loss at Wimbledon earlier this year. He is 9-5 against Medvedev but was drubbed in three sets in 2021 to lose the U.S. Open final to Medvedev.

Shelton was the last American man standing. The most recent U.S. male to win the U.S. Open was Andy Roddick in 2003.

–Field Level Media