Novak Djokovic is into the US Open finals for the 10th time in his career after beating 20 year old American Ben Shelton in straight sets. He'll chase slam title number 24 on Sunday against either Carlos Alcaraz or Daniil Medvedev, in what should be a blockbuster.
While today was straight forward, the 3rd set got very, very fun. Djokovic was broke twice and forced to a tiebreak to wrap up the match. Shelton became a bit of a pest for him and his loud personality got a little bit in Novak's head. That led to Djokovic mocking Shelton's "dialed in" phone celebration which led to a rather cold handshake at the net.
Loved it. Usually you see Novak give a ton of respect to these young guys, but not Shelton. Ben has a loud game. He will celebrate unforced errors, give you exaggerated screams, and talks shit. I personally think that style is great for the game. Novak saw all of that, battled with him there late in the match, and gave it back to him once the final Shelton shot reached the net.
Shelton still has a ways to go to get to a slam-winning level, but the strides he's shown already at his age are impressive. A year ago this dude was playing college tennis and ranked outside the top 500. He's going to wake up on Monday morning ranked 19th in the world. His serve, athleticism, and fearlessness set him up to be very successful in the future once he develops the rest of his game. He's our next best shot at an American man winning a slam.
Diving into the match, Novak was his usual self for the first two sets. He played lights out and took advantage of a kid playing in his first ever US Open semifinal.
Things got interesting in the 3rd set. All of a sudden Shelton became successful when returning Djokovic's serve. Ben's return game isn't his strength, but he did manage to break Tiafoe at will on Tuesday. In the 3rd set he turned things up, maybe because he had nothing to lose, and got back into the match.
Novak prevailed in the tiebreak, a situation he rarely makes any mistakes in, to get out of there in clean straights. Overall he limited Shelton to just five aces while breaking him five times. He's not dubbed the greatest returner in the history of the game for nothing.
Still though, nothing for Shelton to hang his head on. 20 years old and doing all of this is crazy. Testing Novak a little like he did and even getting in his head a little. What an incredibly successful tournament for him. He'll only get better too, which is very exciting.
As for Novak, well I've said recently the men's side of tennis relies heavily on whether a slam final involves Novak Djokovic playing Carlos Alcaraz. If they're both in it, it's must watch. If they're not, you're not going to attract anywhere close to the same amount of excitement. As long as both men get through the match healthy we're basically guaranteed to watch an all-timer.
The sport of tennis needs a rematch on Sunday. It sucks that match is at 4pm on the first NFL Sunday of the year, but it is what it is. It hurts the growth of the sport for casuals, but the people who want to watch will find a way. I need it. Carlos should find a way to victory tonight as his style poses a horrific matchup for Medvedev's game. Maybe we see a change of game plan tonight, but if not it should be fairly straightforward as well.
Carlos. Novak. Sunday. We're so close, just give it to us.