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Novak Djokovic downs gutsy Ben Shelton to reach 10th US Open final

Djokovic downs gutsy Shelton to reach 10th US Open final
© Reuters
Novak Djokovic reaches the US Open final for a record-breaking 10th time with a 6-3 6-2 7-6[4] win over a gusty Ben Shelton at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Novak Djokovic ended Ben Shelton's fairytale run to reach a record-breaking 10th US Open final with a straight-sets win over the American.

The 23-time major winner survived a late fightback from the 2002-born protege to prevail 6-3 6-2 7-6[4] in two hours and 39 minutes, thereby becoming the first man in the Open Era to reach 10 finals in multiple Grand Slam tournaments.

Standing in Djokovic's way of a fourth New York crown will be either Carlos Alcaraz or Daniil Medvedev, who square off in the day's second semi-final later on.

"First of all acknowledging the crowd, you guys were amazing, appreciate your support for both players. These are the kind of matches and occasions that I still thrive on, they still inspire me to wake up every day trying to work as hard as the young guys. Grand Slams are the ones that motivate me to play my best tennis," Djokovic said on the court.

"Today things were going really smoothly for me and he broke back, it was anybody's game at the end of the third set, but this is the atmosphere that we all like to play in. I still feel like I have something to give the sport.

"I expect the toughest match of the tournament regardless who is going to be across the net. Both of them are amazing players in great form. Daniil won against me here a couple of years ago, he's been one of the most consistent players at the US Open in the last four or five years. It'll be a good match for me to watch with my feet in the air, some popcorn and a few drinks!"

Despite wowing the Arthur Ashe crowd with his blistering serves and unparalleled groundstrokes, errors crept into Shelton's game early on as Djokovic won five of the opening seven games.

Ben Shelton in action at the US Open on September 6, 2023© Reuters

The American managed to save four set points and had the chance to break Djokovic when the Serbian was serving for the first set, but a forehand into the net preceded an identical mistake on set point as Djokovic established the advantage.

An untimely double fault from Shelton then saw him lose serve in the fifth game of the second set, and despite a mammoth effort in the seventh, the 20-year-old lost the double break and netted a backhand return to put Djokovic one set away from the final.

Shelton's Flushing Meadows journey was ostensibly coming to an end as he was broken in the first game of the third set, but the youngster stuck to his guns and refused to surrender, earning his first break for 4-4 as Djokovic returned long.

Serving to stay alive in the third, a Djokovic shot clipped the net tape and landed just wide of the line to bring up a set point for Shelton, but the 23-time Grand Slam winner found his serve when it mattered most to save it.

After holding for 5-5, Djokovic found himself with two break points as Shelton sent a forehand well wide, and the 36-year-old came to the net to fire a slick cross-court backhand past the American to put himself on the brink of victory.

However, Djokovic lost his way a little and was forced to come back from a 15-40 deficit, but after wasting one match point, he sent a forehand smash into the net as Shelton incredibly forced a crucial tie-breaker.

Once again, Shelton's admirable resilience came to the fore as he fought back from 5-1 down to 5-4, but he missed the mark with an improvised shot facing away from Djokovic before finding the net one last time to bow out.

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