The 23-time Grand Slam champion, Novak Djokovic, easily defeated the 20-year-old American Ben Shelton (6-3, 6-2, 7-6) in the semifinals of the US Open and in the fight for the title he will face Daniil Medvedev.
The outcome of the matchup between Djokovic and Shelton is quite predictable, although tennis fans were still hoping for more intrigue on the court. As a result, only the third set turned out to be relatively tense, and even then this was not primarily Ben’s merit, but a consequence of excessive relaxation and an unusual number of flaws in Novak’s performance. This semi-final would have quickly faded from memory as passable and uninteresting if not for Djokovic’s actions after the match. The Serbian gestured with the telephone receiver, which Shelton had used earlier to celebrate his victory.
The video is available on the official US Open YouTube channel. The rights belong to the USTA.
Trolling turned out to be a success, if expressed in youth slang. Novak, 36, once again showed that he knows how to properly surprise the public. Does Djokovic’s gesture show a lack of respect towards Shelton? Some may think so. But first it is worth listening to the opinions of the tennis players themselves about what happened.
“I love Ben’s celebration (smiles). I think it’s very original. So I copied it. He stole the celebration (smiles),” Djokovic said at a press conference.
Ben Shelton and Novak Djokovic’s handshake seemed cold from the outside
Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
After the match, Shelton and Djokovic exchanged a rather cold handshake and did not even exchange a few words, as is often the case between tennis players. It seemed like Ben was hurt by Novak’s “stolen” celebration. However, during a conversation with the press, the American denied this assumption.
“I only saw him after the game. I don’t like being told on social media how I can or can’t celebrate. If you win a match, you earn the right to do whatever you want. And as a child I was taught that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I learned that Novak is the guy who can compete at the highest level. You know, he has the same mentality as me. He wants to chase his opponent, be aggressive and show his emotions on the court. It was really cool playing with him for the first time. I look forward to facing Novak again,” Shelton said.
Tenth final in New York! Djokovic put the finishing touch to the main sensation of the US Open and imitated him at the end
Mature words from a 20 year old boy. Shelton has a lot of work to do to reach the latter stages of Grand Slam tournaments consistently. A powerful serve is good, but we urgently need to improve our reception, with which Ben has serious problems. The young American’s zeal is in perfect order, so we can count on his future progress.
The mental aspect should also develop, but in this aspect Shelton is quite good for his age. Of course, he’s not even close to the monster that Novak is, but the guy’s arrogance is impressive. Ben is not known for his modesty or lack of self-confidence. There are no authorities on the court for him, including Djokovic. Ben follows his lead and attempts to get into his opponent’s head through aggression and emotional celebration of each successful action. The now-famous phone gesture attracts attention, although Shelton’s opponents are unlikely to like it. Here’s how Ben explains it.
“When we were kids, the phone in our house in Atlanta was exactly as I show you. If I wanted to talk to my friends, find out how they wanted to go out and play football, that’s what I did. And on the court I show that I was recruited and that I am important. That’s what it means to me. I am close friends with many of the track athletes who train at the University of Florida, near my home in Gainesville. That’s where I saw something like this for the first time. Grant Holloway has won the World Championship three times in a row, it’s his signature style. He likes to do this when he wins. Many other athletes on the team started doing this after him. Grant just won the world championship, so he congratulates him. Praise him. This gesture also connects me with my friends,” Shelton admitted before the semifinal with Djokovic.
Ben Shelton’s famous celebration
Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Novak said he liked Ben’s celebration and thought it was original. He may have done it with a bit of sarcasm. Although, again, Shelton’s celebration is truly original and striking. Djokovic won the match, so he had every right to allow himself a slight separation.
The defeated Ben did not dispute this and even took it personally as a sign of respect from the legend.
Tennis fans are divided over Djokovic’s gesture. Some people definitely didn’t like it and thought it was disrespectful towards his young opponent. Critics’ opinions in publications from the popular Tennis Letter account:
“That is why Novak will never be seen in the same way as Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer”;
“Completely unnecessary celebration by 36-year-old Djokovic after defeating 20-year-old Ben Shelton, who was playing the biggest match of his career in front of his home crowd and had never attacked Novak before”;
“Was it really necessary to celebrate the victory with this very particular gesture?”;
“Ignorance on Novak’s part. Nothing new”.
“This will remain between us.” The American decided to beat Djokovic after the US Open match – 2008
British tennis player Liam Broedy suggested that Djokovic has something personal with Shelton. But still, most fans accepted Novak’s gesture with understanding and even delight.
“When Novak wants to play the role of tennis villain, he does it very well”;
“Djokovic, as an anti-popular pleaser, is my favorite Djokovic. “An athlete with an incredibly strong personality”;
“If someone didn’t consider Novak a legend before, here’s another reason. Only a cult personality can do something so cool like that”;
“I hate ‘dear Novak’. And so do all of you, even if you don’t admit it. He destroyed Ben on the court and then mocked him beautifully. Stop complaining and blaming him”;
“I’m crying with laughter. This is wonderful. “I’m not a big fan of Djokovic, but he did a great job of putting Shelton in his place.”
“Djokovic humiliated Shelton. I love seeing this. “The guy behaved too brazenly before and during the game”;
“My God, how I adore Novak’s art”;
“I taught the arrogant boy a lesson. Novak just wanted to show Shelton that he was more humble. Ben behaved unprofessionally”;
“The most hellish action I have ever seen from Novak. It was epic”;
“Shelton behaved obnoxiously throughout the game, cursing after routine mistakes, loudly celebrating every point, and the like. If there is an opportunity to teach him a lesson, then you should take advantage of it. Novak just buried him. I like it. The baby will learn manners”;
“Novak did not imitate Shelton. He scoffed at how arrogant this young man acted. In tennis, it is customary for any celebration of a point or a match victory to be done without direct disdain for the opponent. What this young man did was disrespectful. He was always disrespectful in many ways. He came into the tour with a supposedly invincible attitude, but suffered humiliating defeats. “Novak just showed Ben how annoying his behavior is.”
I could not contain myself. Djokovic stripped completely naked during the 2018 US Open match
As you can see, Novak’s gesture created quite a stir. What can we say as a result? First, Djokovic put on a show and turned a usually boring match into one that was actively discussed. Maybe he really liked Shelton’s gesture.
Or maybe Novak really wanted to teach Ben a lesson. And in this case nothing happens either. Shelton lost and deserved a beating from the veteran for his sometimes excessive arrogance. This is good motivation for a young American. He realized that he was not prepared to fight on equal terms with Novak. He will now work harder so that the next time he faces the legend he has a better performance and takes at least one set. And the arrogance on the court will probably diminish in matches with all opponents.