Hello and welcome to coverage of the first men’s semi-final between Novak Djokovic and Ben Shelton.
Djokovic is the clear favourite to reach a tenth final in New York having won titles in 2011, 2015 and 2018 and runner-up on six other occasions.
Shelton possesses one of the best serves of the tournament having hit 76 aces and a top speed of 149 mph (240 kph). But against Djokovic, he plays the best returner in the history of the sport, who has won 44 per cent of his opponent’s service games.
“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. 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,” said Shelton, who had never traveled outside the United States until the beginning of this year and reached the quarter-finals at the Australian Open in January.
“I also think that it’s an advantage with my game style playing someone who’s never played me before. I think that I can bring some things to the table that maybe you don’t see in your normal match.
“So I’m definitely going to try to bring some things to the table that are different and hopefully disruptive on Friday.”
Shelton is sure to have the majority of the support being the home favourite but Djokovic is ready for the partisan crowd.
“Sometimes you react, but most of the time you don’t. I speak for myself,” Djokovic said. “Obviously there is whatever percent of the time you don’t react. People speak, they move around. You’ve got to be ready for that, particularly in US Open, especially in the night sessions.
“It just, you know, that’s part of it. It’s part of the sport, and I don’t, you know, mostly I don’t mind it, but, you know, in those important moments when you’re all of a sudden under a lot of stress and you’re facing a breakpoint and then all of a sudden everything annoys you and distracts you, so then you react.
“But that’s, again, heat of the moment, and playing on the highest level. You know, crowd — I’m actually glad the crowd wants to get into it, because it means that the match is interesting, that they want to be part of it. That they’re having fun. At the end of the day, they pay tickets to come and watch you play, so we try to put on a show and perform for them so they go back home, you know, satisfied that they have been here and enjoyed their day.”