Ben Shelton’s reaction speaks volumes as Novak Djokovic copies his celebration

Ben Shelton didn’t appear happy after Novak Djokovic copied his phone celebration after beating him at the US Open. Throughout the tournament, the 20-year-old pantomimed picking up a landline and hanging it up to mark his victories. But it was Djokovic who used the gesture after booking his spot in the final with a 6-3 6-2 7-6(4) win.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion needed longer than expected to book his spot in the final as he went up a break in the third set before Shelton drew level and forced a tiebreak. Djokovic still got things done in three sets and he put his hand to his ear in the shape of a phone as he walked towards the net, gesturing that he was hanging up the phone before going in for the handshake.

But it was a frosty one as the world No 47’s look towards Djokovic spoke volumes. Shelton didn’t look amused after witnessing the Serb using his celebration. It was a move the American used following his win over Aslan Karatsev in the third round and after he defeated 10th seed and compatriot Frances Tiafoe in the quarter-final.

The 20-year-old had also been quizzed over the celebration following his last match, confirming that he had previously used a landline phone despite being so young. “Yeah, so 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,” he said.

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He also explained that the gesture meant that he was “dialled in” and that he had been inspired by someone else. Shelton added: “The first time that I really saw it is I’m really close friends with a lot of track and field athletes who train at the University of Florida where I live in Gainesville.

“One in particular, Grant Holloway, who’s won the World Championships I think three times in a row now, that’s kind of his signature thing. He loves doing this when he wins, and a lot of other athletes on the team kind of started doing it after too. He just won the World Championships, so congrats to him. Give him a little shout-out when I do this. Something that connects me to my friends back home.”

Given Shelton’s connection to the celebration, it came as no surprise that the youngster wasn’t best pleased when Djokovic used it against him. The world No 47 had been playing in the biggest match of his career so far after reaching his maiden Grand Slam semi-final.

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It was a slow start for the former college tennis player who – before this fortnight – hadn’t won back-to-back matches since reaching the Australian Open quarter-final. The second seed cruised through the first two-and-a-half sets with ease and looked to be in touching distance of the final when he led 4-2 in the second set.

But Shelton suddenly stormed back, breaking the 23-time Grand Slam champion for the first time in the match to draw level at 4-4. He had a set point with Djokovic serving at 4-5 but couldn’t take it.

The American also saved a match point when Djokovic served for a spot in the final at 6-5 before going out in a tiebreak. Shelton is now expected to make his top 20 debut when the rankings update on Monday.

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