US Open: Shelton banking on his big serve against mighty Djokovic

The 20-year-old will need all of his weapons on Friday if he is to stand a chance in his first meeting with Djokovic


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Ben Shelton serves during the match against Frances Tiafoe at the US Open. — AFP
Ben Shelton serves during the match against Frances Tiafoe at the US Open. — AFP

By Reuters

Published: Wed 6 Sep 2023, 8:58 PM

Last updated: Wed 6 Sep 2023, 8:59 PM

Ben Shelton's reward for his battling quarterfinal victory at the US Open on Tuesday is a match against 23-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic, and as daunting as the task may be the young American is confident he can play the role of disruptor.

Shelton, the son of former professional Bryan Shelton, is blessed with a big serve and booming forehand but he showed he had plenty of resolve too, beating compatriot Frances Tiafoe 6-2 3-6 7-6(7) 6-2 at a muggy Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The 20-year-old will need all of his weapons on Friday if he is to stand a chance in his first meeting with Djokovic.

"I think that it's an advantage with my game style, playing someone who's never played me before," Shelton told reporters.

"I think that I can bring some things to the table that maybe you don't see in your normal match that you play on the ATP Tour.

"So I'm definitely going to try to bring some things to the table that are different and hopefully disruptive on Friday."

But playing second seed Djokovic, who thrashed Shelton's compatriot Taylor Fritz 6-1 6-4 6-4 on Tuesday, is never a normal match.

The Serb, who is looking to match Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 major singles titles with a fourth Flushing Meadows crown, will be competing in a record 47th Grand Slam semifinal.

Shelton will be playing in his first.

"I think whenever you play somebody for the first time and someone who has been in this situation so many times and come out victorious so many times, that's in the back of your head," Shelton said.

"You just know how rock solid the guy is and how mentally tough, how physically tough. So that's definitely something that I have to game-plan for."

Not since Andy Roddick in 2003 has an American man won the US Open and Djokovic could single-handedly dash home hopes of ending that drought.

Having eliminated Fritz he now finds 20-year-old Shelton standing between him and a 10th trip to the final.

"It's normal, it's logical to expect that most of the crowd would support the home player," said Djokovic. "That's probably going to be the case on Friday, but I'll be ready for it.

"I'm trying to enjoy the moments on the court, but there is so much stress and pressure going on that it's hard to have fun on the court.

"It's really about finding a way to navigate through the match and win a tennis match for me."

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