Second-seeded Novak Djokovic punched his ticket into his 10th career U.S. Open final by sweeping 20-year-old Ben Shelton 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (4) in the semifinals on Friday afternoon in New York.
Djokovic will be aiming for his 24th career Grand Slam title on Sunday when he faces Daniil Medvedev. The third-seeded Russian beat top-seeded Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, the defending champion, 7-6 (3), 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, late Friday night.
The championship showdown on Sunday will be a rematch of the 2021 U.S. Open final that Medvedev won in straight sets, denying Djokovic a sweep of the calendar-year Grand Slam.
With his 10th appearance in the U.S. Open final, Djokovic will match Bill Tilden’s record. Djokovic is 3-6 in U.S. Open title matches.
Djokovic has reached the final of all four Grand Slam events in the same calendar year for the third time, matching the record shared by Roger Federer and Steffi Graf. He also did it in 2015 and 2021.
Shelton had a 30-28 edge in winners but made 43 unforced errors in the two-hour, 41-minute match. He did save 9 of 14 break points. Djokovic committed 25 unforced errors.
The Serbian looked like he would have an easy time on Friday by controlling the first two sets against Shelton, who was playing in a major semifinal for the first time.
Djokovic led 4-2 in the third set before Shelton showed life by winning three straight games. Djokovic recovered to win the next two games before Shelton won the 12th game of the set to force the tiebreaker.
Djokovic won the first three points of the tiebreaker and later led 5-1 before Shelton won the next three points to rouse the pro-American crowd.
The 36-year-old Djokovic then won the final two points to sew up the match.
“These are the kind of matches and occasions that I still thrive on,” Djokovic said after reaching his 36th major final. “They still get me going and inspire me to wake up every day trying to work as the young guys. Grand Slams are the ones that count the most in our sport and obviously the ones that motivate me the most and play my best tennis.”
Djokovic is 2-2 all-time against Alcaraz, including a five-set loss at Wimbledon earlier this year. He is 9-5 against Medvedev but was drubbed in three sets in 2021 to lose the U.S. Open final to Medvedev.
Shelton was the last American man standing. The most recent U.S. male to win the U.S. Open was Andy Roddick in 2003.
Medvedev, 27, is shooting for his second major championship. He is headed to his fifth career Grand Slam final, his first since the 2022 Australian Open. Medvedev lost the 2019 U.S. Open final to Spain’s Rafael Nadal.
Medvedev finally closed out Alcaraz in a tense final game that saw the Spaniard fail on three break points and the Russian fail on three match points before sealing the victory.
Speaking postmatch of the test he faced against Alcaraz, “I said I needed to play 11 out of 10, and I played 12 out of 10 except in the third set. He’s so young. Two Grand Slams already, world No. 1 for many weeks, it’s honestly just pretty unbelievable. I think nobody has done it before him. So to beat him, you need to be better than yourself, and I managed to do it.
Djokovic holds a 9-5 advantage in head-to-head matchups against Medevdev, though they have split their two meetings this year. Djokovic won the semifinals at Adelaide, Australia, and Medvedev prevailed in the semifinals at Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Medvedev said of opposing Djokovic, “The challenge is you play a guy who won 23 Grand Slams. I have only one. When I beat him here, I managed to play better than myself, and I need to do it again. There is no other way.”
–Field Level Media