Novak Djokovic reaches his tenth US Open last by hanging up the telephone on American Ben Shelton

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“Nicely, truth is that, at 36, each Grand Slam last … could possibly be the final one.”

Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, reacts throughout a match towards Ben Shelton, of the US, throughout the males’s singles semifinals of the U.S. Open tennis championships, Friday, Sept. 8, 2023, in New York. (AP Picture/Frank Franklin II) AP

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NEW YORK (AP) — Novak Djokovic restricted big-serving Ben Shelton to 5 aces and broke him 5 occasions of their U.S. Open semifinal Friday. Djokovic pushed again when the 20-year-old unseeded American produced a late stand that obtained the house crowd into the match.

And after overcoming what he known as “a little bit black gap” brought on by stress to proper himself, end off a 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (4) victory and attain his record-tying tenth last at Flushing Meadows and thirty sixth in any respect main tournaments, Djokovic added a contact of insult to harm by mimicking the child’s “Dangle up the telephone!” celebration gesture.

Djokovic then pointed to his temple and pounded his fist on his chest, earlier than a stone-faced Shelton met him on the web for probably the most perfunctory of handshakes. A 12 months after Djokovic couldn’t journey to the US for the Open as a result of he isn’t vaccinated towards COVID-19, the 36-year-old from Serbia is one victory away from a fourth title in New York and twenty fourth Grand Slam championship general.

“Nicely, truth is that, at 36, each Grand Slam last … could possibly be the final one. So I believe that I in all probability worth these events and alternatives to win one other Slam greater than I’ve possibly 10 years in the past,” stated Djokovic, who can be the oldest man to win the U.S. Open within the skilled period, which started in 1968. “I don’t know what number of I’ve forward of me now.”

He has made it to the finals of all 4 majors this season, with victories on the Australian Open in January and French Open in June.

On Sunday, Djokovic will face both defending champion Carlos Alcaraz, who defeated Djokovic for the Wimbledon title in July, or 2021 U.S. Open champ Daniil Medvedev, who denied Djokovic a calendar-year Grand Slam by beating him within the last at Flushing Meadows two years in the past.

If Djokovic does find yourself leaving with the {hardware} this time, he would break a tie with Serena Williams for probably the most main singles championships within the Open period.

“It’s one other shot for historical past,” stated Djokovic, who was seeded No. 2 on the U.S. Open however will substitute Alcaraz at No. 1 subsequent week it doesn’t matter what occurs Sunday.

Djokovic vs. Shelton definitely appeared like a mismatch beforehand: Djokovic was collaborating in his document Forty seventh Slam semifinal and his one centesimal U.S. Open match; the Forty seventh-ranked Shelton was in his first main semi and solely his seventh profession match on the Open.

Shelton received an NCAA singles title for the College of Florida final 12 months and captured consideration over the previous two weeks with the highly effective swings of his racket that generated a tournament-high 76 aces getting into Friday, his shouts of “Yeah!” or biceps flexes after successful factors and a victory-capping pantomime pretending his hand is an old-style phone handset that he slams down.

“I assumed it was very unique, and I copied him,” Djokovic stated with a smile. “I stole his celebration.”

Shelton truly borrowed it from former Florida monitor and subject athlete Grant Holloway, a world champion hurdler.

Shelton insisted Djokovic’s end-of-match gesture didn’t hassle him.

“I don’t like after I’m on social media and I see folks telling me how I can have fun or can’t have fun. I believe in the event you win the match, you need to do no matter you need,” Shelton stated. “As a child rising up, I all the time discovered that imitation is the sincerest type of flattery, in order that’s all I’ve to say about that.”

He made issues attention-grabbing within the third set, lifting his degree of play as Djokovic obtained tight when the end line neared. Shelton broke for the one two occasions within the match, even held a set level at 5-4 and later erased a match level on the best way to forcing the concluding tiebreaker.

The followers beloved it.

“It was loud,” Shelton stated. “I imply, actually loud.”

However Djokovic, all the time so robust when the going will get robust, pulled out the win.

The retractable roof was closed due to rain within the forecast, creating echoes for the soundtrack of yells and applause in Arthur Ashe Stadium, the place there have been further law enforcement officials and safety guards a day after 4 local weather protesters — together with one man who glued his naked toes to the concrete within the stands — induced a 50-minute delay throughout Coco Gauff’s semifinal victory.

In his sleeveless muscle shirt, Shelton got here out smacking his high-rate lefty serves. After one at 140 mph (226 kph), he shook his racket. After an ace at 145 mph (233 kph), he screamed.

A few lulls for Shelton towards the relentlessly intense Djokovic shifted issues early. A poor drop shot into the online right here, a flubbed volley there, and Shelton obtained damaged to path 4-2. Djokovic strode calmly to a towel field in a nook to wipe off. Made sense: It was simply 20 minutes and 6 video games in.

However the final consequence by no means actually appeared unsure. Nicely, OK, there was that little burst of excellence from Shelton after he trailed 4-2 within the final set.

In the long run, although, all of Djokovic’s expertise prevailed, together with that skill to return serves, to grind away, level after level, together with his sneaker-squeaking, body-bending protection and extra.

“He’s a man who can compete on the highest degree, has an identical mentality to me on the court docket, with how he needs to return after you and be aggressive and present his emotion,” Shelton stated. “It was actually cool to see that matchup for the primary time. Wanting ahead to hopefully getting it once more.”