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Djokovic Ends Shelton's Run, Reaches Record-Equalling 10th US Open Final

  • Posted: Sep 08, 2023

Djokovic Ends Shelton’s Run, Reaches Record-Equalling 10th US Open Final

Serbian chasing record-extending 24th major

Novak Djokovic moved to within one win of capturing his 24th major title on Friday when he defeated American Ben Shelton 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(4) to reach a record-equalling 10th US Open final, matching Bill Tilden’s mark.

Playing his 100th match at the hard-court major, the three-time champion demonstrated why he is widely considered the best returner of all time. The Serbian showed great anticipation and hands to neutralise Shelton’s thunderous serve, clinching victory after two hours and 40 minutes against the 20-year-old, who was the youngest American to reach the last four since Michael Chang in 1992.

“These are the kinds of matches and occasions that I still thrive on and get me going and inspire me every day to try and work as hard as the young guys,” Djokovic said. “The Grand Slams are the ones that motivate me the most to play my best tennis, perform my best tennis. I knew prior to the quarter-finals that I would play an American player and that is never easy. To control the nerves and be composed in the moments that matter. Today things were going really smoothly for me and then he broke back and it was anyones game at the end of the third set. This is the kind of atmosphere we all like to play in, so I am really, really pleased with this win today.”

Djokovic, who broke Shelton five times, has now reached the final at all four majors in the same season for the third time in his career (2015, ’21). The 36-year-old also continued his quest to become the oldest man to win the US Open singles title in the Open Era (since 1968). Then-35-year-old Ken Rosewall triumphed in Flushing Meadows in 1970.

“Discipline is everything. I think it is a combination of discipline, will power and clarity of what you want to do,” Djokovic said on reaching his 36th major final. “What your short and long-term goals are. I have been pleased to play this sport for many years and have achieved a lot. I still feel I have something in my legs left. I feel I still have a lot to give to the sport. Another Grand Slam final, I can’t be happier.”

Djokovic has won four titles in 2023, including major crowns at the Australian Open and Roland Garros. He will battle for a record-extending 24th Slam title on Sunday against Carlos Alcaraz or Daniil Medvedev. Djokovic, who holds a 87-13 record at the US Open, lost to Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final.

“I expect it to be the toughest match of the tournament despite who is going to be across the net from me,” Djokovic said. “Both of them are amazing players. They are in great form. Daniil won against me in the final a couple of years ago. He has probably been the most consistent player at the US Open in the past five years. Then you have Carlos. What he has achieved at 20 years of age is incredible. He is an amazing player and great for our sport. It is going to be an enjoyable match for me to watch.”

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Shelton reached the quarter-finals on debut at the Australian Open in January, but had failed to win consecutive matches at his next 18 tour-level events prior to arriving in New York. Armed with a deadly serve, a destructive game and youthful freedom, Shelton showed the world what he was capable of at the final major of the season.

The 20-year-old, currently fourth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Jeddah, upset seeds Tommy Paul and Frances Tiafoe, hitting two 149 mph serves against the former to become the first unseeded semi-finalist at the US Open since Grigor Dimitrov in 2019.

Shelton, who studied at the University of Florida, was unable to find his way past Djokovic in their first Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting, though. The Serbian quickly adjusted to Shelton’s lefty serve, dealing with the pace and variety of spins the American offered up to force the 20-year-old into baseline exchanges.

The 20-year-old thundered a 143mph second serve to hold for 1-0 at the start of the second set and hit several bullet forehands and deft volleys. From 2-4 down in the third set, Shelton rallied to earn himself a set point on Djokovic’s serve at 4-5. The second seed snuffed it out with a big first serve, though, as Shelton struggled to extend his magical moments into prolonged periods of consistency. After levelling at 5-5, Djokovic recovered from failing to serve out the match at 6-5, upping his intensity in the tie-break to clinch his 44th victory of the season.

Djokovic won 84 per cent (56/67) of his first-serve points, struck 28 winners compared to 25 unforced errors and won 88 per cent (23/26) of net points in a consistent display under the roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

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The 36-year-old also extended his winning streak to 31 matches against Americans, having defeated Taylor Fritz in the quarter-finals. Djokovic last lost against an American at Wimbledon in 2016 when Sam Querrey defeated him in four sets.

Shelton leaves New York up 28 spots to No. 19 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings and is set to break into the Top 20 for the first time on Monday.

Did You Know?
Djokovic has advanced to 36 Grand Slam finals. He reached his first major title match at the US Open in 2007 (l. to Roger Federer).

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Bopanna Hailed For Memorable Act Of Sportsmanship

  • Posted: Sep 08, 2023

Bopanna Hailed For Memorable Act Of Sportsmanship

Indian shows high character during US Open final defeat

Rohan Bopanna and Matthew Ebden fell short in the US Open men’s doubles final on Friday against Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury, but Bopanna earned plenty of respect for a memorable act of sportsmanship.

At 2-4 in the final set, Eden hit a forehand that grazed the Indian’s right arm. The chair umpire did not notice the touch, but Bopanna called it on himself, forfeiting the point.

“When Matt hit that forehand crosscourt, the ball hit my elbow. I don’t think anybody really saw it, So I claimed it on myself,” Bopanna said. “That’s the person I have been through my career, and I really feel if something — it doesn’t matter what the scoreline or what the occasion of the match is — if something was not right, it was not right.

“Straightaway I went and told the referee that the ball had touched. I think she was confused too at what is happening.”

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Ebden added: “The only one in the stadium who saw it hit you was me. Because I was right behind you, so I saw it deviate off you slightly.”

During the trophy ceremony after the match, Ram made a point of calling out Bopanna’s sportsmanship.

“Rohan and I are real close and that act of sportsmanship today, what he did out on the court. We have been playing for the better part of 20, 25 years on Tour together and I have never seen anything like that,” Ram said. “Especially in a moment like that because we would have had no idea. It just shows what kind of guy he is and how deserving he is to at this point in his career playing for these kinds of titles. You are an inspiration to all of us.”

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No Cartilage, No Problem For History-Making 43-Year-Old Bopanna

  • Posted: Sep 08, 2023

No Cartilage, No Problem For History-Making 43-Year-Old Bopanna

Bopanna/Ebden to play Ram/Salisbury for US Open title

In April 2021, Rohan Bopanna was wondering why he was still playing tennis. The Indian star had just lost a match in Estoril with Alexander Bublik. He had lost all seven matches he had played to start the season and won only one set.

“I was sitting near the ocean and I was telling myself, ‘What am I even doing? I’m not even winning matches, I have a family at home. Should I just call it a day and just go back?’” Bopanna told “Our daughter was four years old right now and I thought, ‘Why not? Let’s do that.’”

Instead, Bopanna continued on and is playing some of the best tennis of his career. On Thursday, the 43-year-old became the oldest Grand Slam doubles finalist in the Open Era. Bopanna and Matthew Ebden will play Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury Friday for the US Open title.

The Indian has won five ATP Masters 1000 titles with five different partners, but never a men’s doubles trophy at a major. Not bad for someone with no cartilage in his knees.

“It’s worn out completely. It’s just worn out. It’s not a tear. Both my knees have no cartilage and in 2019 I was on two, three painkillers a day,” Bopanna said. “[In] 2020 I started Iyengar yoga, and that actually made a tremendous difference. I went from two, three painkillers a day to no painkillers today. I think the only time sometimes I take an anti-inflammatory is from playing two matches a day. At that time the body says, ‘Hello, please slow down, you still have no cartilage.’”

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Bopanna became interested in Iyengar yoga during the Covid-19 pandemic, when professional tennis was suspended. He did 90-minute sessions four times a week.

“It really made the difference,” Bopanna explained. “I said ‘Okay’. Then when I started playing, I felt pain-free. And then that was a whole new ballgame.”

Today, the 24-time tour-level doubles titlist does a shorter period of yoga in the morning.

“I think the yoga kind of helped align the body better, helped the mind as well [stay] calmer,” Bopanna said. “And then having the right team, I’ve had Scott Davidoff traveling with me for 12, 13 years now and that has made a huge difference to understand how I’m playing. I’ve invested in myself in terms of bringing a good physio on board this year. Last year, I didn’t have that.”

Bopanna in January began working with Rebecca Van Orshaegen, a Belgian physio. Everything together has helped him compete at the highest level. Bopanna and Ebden will climb to first place in the Pepperstone ATP Live Doubles Teams Rankings if they win the US Open title.

Bopanna reached his first major final at the 2010 US Open alongside Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi. Since then, he has competed at the Nitto ATP Finals three times with three different partners, and at Roland Garros in 2017 captured the mixed doubles crown with Gabriela Dabrowski. But when he steps on court Friday, he will be playing in his first men’s doubles major final in 13 years.

“I definitely believe that I am playing much better right now. Because I think over the years, playing with various different partners brought in so much experience, learning from especially when I was starting my career, when I started with Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, then I played with Mahesh Bhupathi a lot. I played with Daniel Nestor a lot,” Bopanna said. “So I learned I felt so much from them, which I could bring in over the years to my journey and today I don’t feel rushed on the court.

“Initially, I feel that I’m much calmer. And then I can think much better and that just kind of really enhanced the game. Earlier in the day, I used to do a lot of serve and volley, now I don’t do that as much. Obviously that is due to the physical conditions of having no cartilage on my knees in order to change that up.”

Cartilage or not, Bopanna is flying high. And with his wife and daughter by his side, the Indian star is excited to try to bring his family his biggest trophy yet.

“I’m extremely proud. Anytime there’s a record set, I get it. But it is not something I’m focussed on, like looking to get or something,” Bopanna said. “If it happens along the way, yes, extremely happy with it. But the pure goal when I play is to go win the match, win the tournament, and that is it.”

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Showman Shelton Finds His Biggest Stage Yet

  • Posted: Sep 08, 2023

Showman Shelton Finds His Biggest Stage Yet

Insight from track star Grant Holloway and more

One word to describe Ben Shelton’s game is electric. From his thunderbolt serve to his aggressive game style, the 20-year-old brings everything that a fan would want to watch in a tennis match. His magnetic smile and willingness to involve the crowd have made him a showstopper.

Part of the Shelton box-office package at this US Open has been a signature celebration. After winning his matches, the former University of Florida star has pretended to pick up the phone and listened for a moment before slamming it back on the receiver.

“Our home phone when I was growing up in Atlanta was one like that. If I wanted to talk to my friends or call their home phone, see if they wanted to go outside and throw a football, that was what I did,” Shelton said. “But for me it’s kind of like I’m saying I’m dialled in.”

Shelton explained that the celebration was inspired by another former Gator, Grant Holloway, a track star who has won several world championships in events including the 110-metre hurdles and the 60-metre hurdles.

“For me, when I pick up the phone, it’s kind of just letting everybody know I can hear you talk,” Holloway told “Just know I’m always going to answer and I’m always going to deliver. As Ben said, you stay dialled in.

“Obviously, on that day, anything can happen. So it’s just one of the things where we just let everybody know, you can say whatever you want about me. But at the end of the day, I’ve got to go out there and compete and I’m going to stay dialled in no matter what.”

<a href=Ben Shelton” />
Photo: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
Holloway became friends with Shelton through his brother, another Florida track star, MJ Holloway. They would grab food, chat and inspire one another to chase greatness. It has been “amazing” for Holloway, who won the 110-metre world championship two weeks ago, to watch his friend take the US Open by storm. Now the 2022 NCAA singles winner will face 23-time major titlist Novak Djokovic for a place in the final.

“When you have a close friend ripping up the scenes on the tennis court and playing some of the idols that we used to joke around with [each other about], I think it’s pretty remarkable because he’s living out his dream,” Holloway said. “I think most people get caught in the hype, obviously, when they’re young, when they start to play some of the idols. They start to respect them too much.

“I was one of those people before, so it’s my goal to really challenge him and tell him, ‘Respect is earned and not given.’ So really, just to go out there and just to demand respect on his name.”

One thing nobody will need to worry about is whether Shelton will walk onto the court inside Arthur Ashe Stadium ready for a battle.

“He’s a fierce competitor. Obviously you guys are starting to know that now. But obviously his close friends always knew it was only a matter of time until he busted on the scene,” Holloway said. “[He needs to] continue just to believe, continue to stay dialed in and it’s just one of the things where it’s only a matter of time until he’s at the top spot.”

Shelton’s competitive fire is nothing new. The American has shown it since well before tennis was his main focus. Kenny Thorne grew up competing with Ben’s father and coach, Bryan Shelton. They both played at Georgia Institute of Technology, went out on the ATP Tour and eventually coached at their alma mater, where Thorne led — and still is the head coach of — the men’s team and Shelton the women’s.

Thorne vividly remembers tennis camps at Georgia Tech where Ben, who was not yet 10, would leave his mark in team tennis competitions.

“He was just this little 10-and-under kid and we had [kids] all the way up to age 18. And you could hear him from point one. His whole team somehow was fired up by this little 10-year-old out there competing, and he honestly just loved competing,” Thorne said. “I know he played a lot of other sports and did a lot of things. But when it came to competition, you tried to get some people to embrace it. He just naturally embraced it. He loved the moment, he loved being out there. And it wasn’t about him being the centre of attention. It was just that he enjoyed it.”

Bryan Shelton became the head men’s tennis coach at the University of Florida in 2013 and at the time, Ben still played other sports, including football and baseball. One of Shelton’s assistant coaches, Scott Perelman, would watch Ben play football and marvel at his fearlessness taking on players twice his size.

“His enthusiasm for life, his competitive spirit, his athleticism have always been somewhat off the charts,” Perelman said. “And once he grew into that body of his, as you can see, one special thing after another started happening.”

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There are many pieces of Shelton’s tennis that stand out, especially his monstrous serve. But how he handles big moments is almost as important. Many players need years of experience to grow accustomed to the pressures of playing in front of thousands of fans in a stadium and millions across the world. Shelton handles the pressure like he’s been dealing with it for decades. Part of the reason why is the joie de vivre with which he plays.

“This is not work to him, this is like a joy to him,” Perelman said. “And you can see it with the way he plays, the way he handles himself, the way he deals with pressure. It just puts him in a pretty, pretty rare air in my opinion.”

The Thorne family and Shelton family remain close, and Kenny has watched Ben grow from camper to world-class player, and even coached against him at the college level in individual tournaments when Shelton competed for his father’s team at Florida.

“I know he loves the game of tennis, but I think he loves competing as much or more than any of the sports,” Thorne said. “You can tell when somebody enjoys competing. And you can tell when people shy away from it. And he’s never shied away from a young age from competing. And that’s something that I don’t think you can really teach.”

So when Shelton stands across the net from Djokovic on Friday evening, he will pick up the phone and dial in for work. He may or may not win, but there is no doubt the lefty will leave it all out there.

“Ben is a generational talent, obviously, we all see that,” Holloway said. “This is one of the things now where he continues to shock the world.”

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Cervara: Why Medvedev Needs To Find The Superhero Within Himself

  • Posted: Sep 08, 2023

Cervara: Why Medvedev Needs To Find The Superhero Within Himself speaks to the French coach ahead of the US Open semis

Gilles Cervara is well aware of the challenge his player, Daniil Medvedev, will face Friday when he plays defending champion and top seed Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals. According to the Frenchman, players need to find a level beyond their best to compete with the likes of the Spaniard.

“To beat the best you have to play probably over your level, you have to find something different. You have to be in almost the best day of your year, and you have to create the conditions for this,” Cervara told “I think and I really believe as a person and as a coach that you have to find something deeper inside yourself, to be someone stronger and stronger.

“If I use an example, you probably know Dragon Ball Z. Superhero. You have to find this power inside yourself to be like a superhero, to be over the best you can do. That’s what I think. And sports in general, I’ve always seen this all over the years. The No. 1 is almost unbeatable but someone is able to play over his best this day to beat him. And I think tomorrow is the day like this.”

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In other words, a player needs to go into Super Saiyan mode. Medvedev will try to do just that as he tries to level his Lexus ATP Head2Head series with Alcaraz at 2-2.

“I really believe that it’s really possible if you find this energy, this mentality, this fire,” Cervara said. “Of course in your game, your game becomes stronger and stronger and then your opponent looks not to be at his best this day also because you are over this.

“Daniil is one of the players able to do it.”

According to Cervara, Medvedev does not necessarily need to prepare differently for a challenge like playing Alcaraz or Novak Djokovic. It just requires a different level of focus.

“It’s just your margin of error or the margin of the good or the bad choices are getting like this,” Cervara said, pinching his fingers together. “You can always find something against lower players. Against the [best players]… your margin is very, very thin.”

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Medvedev defeated close friend Andrey Rublev in straight sets in the quarter-finals, but made use of his margin for error earlier in the tournament, when he lost a set to Christopher O’Connell and Alex de Minaur. For the fourth time in the past five years, the 2021 champion is into the US Open semi-finals.

“It’s great to be there. First of all, in general, it’s very good to be there anywhere, and especially when you didn’t win so many matches. For guys like Daniil, every time you play a tournament, especially [ATP] Masters 1000s, you want to go to the final or to win the tournament for sure,” Cervara said. “And when you lose before those guys, maybe not all of them, but a guy like Daniil, then it becomes very, very tough every day. So everything can be difficult and you have to manage this every day.

“So it’s a lot of pressure, a lot of tension. And even if, from my perspective, as a coach, I always try to give the good side of what happened.”

Cervara felt that even in Medvedev’s quarter-final loss in Toronto (to Alex de Minaur) and third-round defeat in Cincinnati (to Alexander Zverev), there were plenty of positives from which the World No. 3 could be confident.

“But inside the player, he just sees that he doesn’t win, so it’s s***. And then you have to manage this negative feeling even if you feel that it’s not that bad. And you can feel the good things. So it makes the work very, very tough,” Cervara said. “When finally at the end during the major he plays good, you feel much better and you feel that yeah, my point of view was the good one, it was the right one.”

On Thursday morning Cervara went for a boxing session, an activity he enjoys throughout the world. The Frenchman felt his performance was not good enough and the coach told him he was being too hard on himself.

“I was laughing in my mind, because I was like, ‘Yeah, I know exactly how Daniil feels in that moment’, and I was like, ‘Yes’,” Cervara said. “But also, this dissatisfaction is also the engine to do better and better. But at the same time it puts you always in tension and frustration.”

So what flip did Medvedev switch at Flushing Meadows to raise his level and battle into the last four at the season’s final major, finding the form that helped him win five titles earlier in 2023?

“It’s tough to talk about this now because tomorrow we play a semi-final, so the tournament still is going on and I want to focus on the next step,” Cervara said. “And it’s a huge, huge step.”

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