Novak Djokovic moved to within one win of his 24th major title on Friday when he defeated American Ben Sheldon 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(4) to reach a 10th US Open final, equaling Phil Tilton’s mark. .
Playing his 100th match at a hard-court major, the three-time champion proved why he is considered the greatest returner of all time. The Serbian showed great anticipation and hands to neutralize Sheldon’s thunderous serves after two hours and 40 minutes against the 20-year-old, the youngest American to reach the last four since Michael Chang in 1992.
“These kinds of tournaments and occasions motivate me to grow even more and try to work as hard as the young guys every day,” Djokovic said. “The Grand Slams are what motivate me the most to play my best tennis and play my best tennis. I knew before the quarter-finals that I would play as an American player, which was not easy. Gotta keep the nerves under control. Composed in the important moments. Things were going very smoothly for me today, and then he Backed off and at the end of the third set it was whose game it was. It’s the situation we all want to play in, so I’m really, really happy with this win today.”
Djokovic, who has defeated Sheldon five times, has now reached the finals of all four majors in the same season for the third time in his career (2015, 21). The 36-year-old continued his quest to become the oldest man to win a US Open singles title in the Open era (since 1968). Then 35-year-old Ken Rosewall won at Flushing Meadows in 1970.
“Discipline is everything. I think it’s a combination of discipline, determination and clarity about what you want to do,” Djokovic said as he reached his 36th major final. “What are your short and long-term goals. I’m happy playing the sport over the years and have achieved a lot. I still feel there’s something left in my legs. I feel I have a lot more to give. The sport. Another Grand Slam final, I couldn’t be happier.”
Djokovic has won four titles in 2023, including the Australian Open and Roland Garros major crowns. He will go for a record 24th Slam title against either Carlos Algarz or Daniel Medvedev on Sunday. Djokovic, who had an 87-13 record at the US Open, lost to Alcazar in the Wimbledon final.
“I expect it to be the toughest match of the tournament regardless of who is going to connect with me,” Djokovic said. “Both are fantastic players. They’re in great form. Daniel won the final against me 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 fantastic player and great for our game. .It will be a fun match for me to watch.
Shelton reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open 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, devastating game and youthful independence, Sheldon showed the world his talent in the season finale.
The 20-year-old, seeded fourth at the Pepperstone ATP Live Race to Jeddah, hit two 149mph wins against Tommy Paul and Francis Tiafoe to become the first unseeded semi-finalist at the US Open since Grigor Dimitrov. 2019.
Shelton, who studied at the University of Florida, couldn’t find a way past Djokovic in their first Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting. The Serbian quickly adjusted to Sheldon’s lefty serve, handling the pace and variety of spins the American provided to force the 20-year-old into basic exchanges.
The 20-year-old hit a series of bullet forehands and deft volleys early in the second set to hold a 143 mph serve for 1-0. From 2-4 down in the third set, Shelton earned a set point on Djokovic’s serve at 4-5. As Sheldon struggled to extend his magical moments with long-term consistency, the second seed pulled it off with a huge first serve. After leveling at 5-5, Djokovic recovered from a 6-5 deficit to serve out the match and turned up the 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 compared to 25 unforced errors and won 88 percent (23/26) of his net points in a consistent display under the roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The 36-year-old extended his winning streak against the Americans to 31 matches by defeating Taylor Fritz in the quarter-finals. Djokovic last played against the American at Wimbledon in 2016 when Sam Querrey defeated him in four sets.
Sheldon climbed 28 places from New York to No. 19 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings and enters the top 20 for the first time on Monday.
did you know?
Djokovic has reached 36 Grand Slam finals. He achieved his first major title at the US Open in 2007 (L. to Roger Federer).