New York is quick to find its favorite and in Ben Shelton, supporters of the US Open have discovered another favourite.
The 20-year-old faced the ultimate David vs. Goliath competition in his first semi-final ever on the ATP Tour.
Novak Djokovic had won 21 of his last 22 Grand Slam finals, but briefly in the third set, the prospect of a first American in the US Open final in 13 years buzzed at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Shelton was already the first unseeded man in the semifinals in New York since 1998, a year after his father Bryan retired from professional tennis.
His run was in danger of being quickly nullified by the Serb, who was chasing a 24Th Grand Slam title, only for the American to bounce back in set number three, briefly threatening to change the dynamic of the game before a stubborn Djokovic imposed his win 6-3 6-2 7-6.
That means Djokovic has reached all four Grand Slam finals in one calendar year for the third time in his career, an all the more remarkable feat considering he’s 36 years old.
And yet it was Shelton who had the crowd watching, for his high-serving, hard-hitting and happy tennis game had garnered him plenty of support over the past two weeks.
He unleashed over 140mph on the second serve and threw everything at Djokovic. It was the approach that meant he was plagued by unforced errors but in truth against Djokovic would have been anything but inadequate.
The older man has the amazing ability to crush, strangle and suffocate an opponent.
In between, the match threatened to become an all-time classic as both men delivered stunning shots, yet it always felt like the 23-time Grand Slam champion had enough to put Shelton at a distance at every crucial moment hold.
Just a month before his 21st birthdayst birthday, he has all the makings of being a world-class player and certainly has what it takes to push for a title here and be a threat at Wimbledon.
It probably didn’t help his cause that the roof was closed due to the heavy rain after the heatwave and the threat of thunderstorms, such is Djokovic’s mastery of indoor courts.
In Australia, where he had reached the quarterfinals, Shelton had run out of gas. On this occasion he simply met a better player.
There were a few moments of what might have been. Trailing 2:5 in the first set, he secured four set points and had a break point against his opponent in the next game, but was unable to convert it.
However, he converted his second break point unjustified in the third set and got back to 4:4 after being broken in the opening game of that set.
From then on, he constantly put Djokovic under so much pressure on his serve that he forced a tiebreak. But it was only to delay the inevitable as the world No. 2 won but Shelton was still on his heels.
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https://www.standard.co.uk/sport/tennis/us-open-novak-djokovic-ben-shelton-b1105930.html US Open: Novak Djokovic is on course for his 24th Grand Slam title after a straight-set win over Ben Shelton