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Novak Djokovic’s post-match act stuns US Open as he moves into final with dominant win over Ben Shelton

Novak Djokovic’s post-match act stuns US Open as he moves into final with dominant win over Ben Shelton

Experience put paid to youthful exuberance as Novak Djokovic ended Ben Shelton’s American dream at the US Open, and at the same time infuriated the young gun by imitating his ‘hang up the phone’ celebration gesture after the match.

Djokovic, 36, halted big-serving 20-year-old Shelton’s breakthrough run in the semi-finals with a 6-3 6-2 7-6 (7-4) victory on Friday at Flushing Meadows.

It was a defeat which will prolong America’s wait for a first home men’s champion since Andy Roddick in 2003 for at least another year, and also mark a record 10th appearance in the men’s final for Djokovic.

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The gulf in big-occasion nous was apparent from the start, with Djokovic playing in his 100th US Open match and Shelton his seventh.

Shelton was the youngest American man to reach the semi-finals since Michael Chang in 1992, Djokovic the eldest since Jimmy Connors a year earlier.

Novak Djokovic imitated Ben Shelton’s ‘hang up the phone’ celebration gesture after his victory. Credit: Getty Images

The Serbian was playing in his 47th grand-slam semi, and Shelton his first.

Now Djokovic is now one win away from a 24th major title and becoming the oldest winner in the Open era, surpassing Australian Ken Rosewall who was 35 when he won the title in 1970.

Djokovic celebrated his victory by imitating Shelton’s ‘hang up the phone’ celebration gesture with the pair engaging in a cold handshake at the net.

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Djokovic’s post-match antics sent social media into a spin with many fans unhappy with his performance.

“And he wonders why people dislike or boo him. Amazing player but don’t expect fans to love you with things like this,” one person wrote on X (formerly Twitter).

“Novak is so unlikeable. Mocking a 20 year old kid like this? There just isn’t any need for it. Do better. You’re 36 years old,” another person said.

“Pathetic. This is why Nole will never be seen in the same light as Rafa and Roger. He doesn’t want anyone to succeed but himself,” another added.

Others said Djokovic’s celebration was “so disrespectful” and “uncalled for”, while one person said it is “hard for neutrals to like him.”

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“Hang up the phone folks, that was it,” an ESPN commentator said about the celebration.

“Wasn’t the warmest handshake that you’d normally see from Djokovic, he normally gives you a pat on the back or even a semi-hug, pats your belly or something.

“I’m not sure what it was, maybe he didn’t want to give anything to the 20-year-old, he knows he might have to face him a few more times.”

Djokovic said he is still motivated to continue playing as he prepares for a final against either Carlos Alcaraz or Daniil Medvedev.

“Look, these are the kind of matches and occasions that I still thrive on, that inspire me to wake up every day and work hard,” Djokovic said.

“Grand slams are the most important, the ones that mean the most to me. Playing an American player is never easy and I had to hold my nerve.

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“It was anybody’s game at the end of the third set. I’m really pleased with this win today.”

A poor service game saw Shelton gift Djokovic a break in the first set with three unforced errors including an ill-advised drop shot.

The youngster saved four set points on his own serve and had a break-back point in the next but was unable to take it as Djokovic got the first set on the board in 34 minutes.

A double-fault gave Djokovic another break in the second as Shelton’s unforced errors really began to pile up; by the end of the second set he had made 27 to Djokovic’s nine.

Shelton gave the New York crowd something to cheer in the third when he twice retrieved breaks and had a set point on the Djokovic serve.

It was quickly snuffed out, though, and Djokovic prevailed in the tie-break to book a 36th grand slam final – which is incredibly half of the majors he has competed in.

– With Joel Martelli

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