Ben Shelton has already defied heavy odds to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal at the 2023 U.S. Open.
The 20-year-old American will have to pull an even bigger rabbit out of his hat when he faces Novak Djokovic in the first men’s semifinal at 3 p.m. ET on Friday.
Shelton, who arrived at Flushing Meadows unseeded, knocked off two of America’s top three seeds in reaching the semis — following an upset of No. 14 Tommy Paul in the fourth round with a four-set win over No. 10 Francis Tiafoe in the quarterfinals.
It continues an impressive season for Shelton, who reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open but lost in the first round of the French Open and the second round of Wimbledon.
His Grand Slam semifinal debut will come against the man making his record 47th appearance in the final four of a slam. Other than a five-set thriller against fellow Serb Laslo Djere, No. 2 seed Djokovic has not dropped a set in his other four matches. That includes dispatching of No. 9 Taylor Fritz, the top-ranked American, in straight sets in the quarters.
Shelton faces a daunting task as Djokovic has won 21 of his past 22 major semifinal matches. Djokovic also has not dropped a tiebreaker in a major semifinal since the U.S. Open nine years ago.
“Ben Shelton has been serving some bombs this tournament,” Djokovic, 36, said after his win over Fritz. “When his serve is on, he’s a very difficult player to play against, especially because he’s lefty, as well.”
That said, Djokovic is a massive -1400 favorite at BetMGM to dispatch of Shelton (+750).
The 23-time Grand Slam champion has also seen his odds of winning the men’s title shorten from +160 to begin the tournament to -125.
Should Djokovic get past Shelton, he would play the winner of the second semifinal between top-ranked Carlos Alcaraz and No. 3 seed Daniil Medvedev.
Alcaraz, who beat Djokovic in a five-set thriller in the Wimbledon final, has dropped just one set in cruising through his first five matches. The Spaniard is the
-375 favorite to beat Russia’s Medvedev (+290), the 2021 U.S. Open champion who has only lost two sets to this point in the tournament.
The public clearly expects to see another Alcaraz-Djokovic final, with Alcaraz holding +120 odds to win the men’s title followed by Medvedev at +900 and Shelton at +3300. Alcaraz, the defending champion, has drawn the most total bets at 26.7 percent, while Djokovic has been backed by the most money at 39.5 percent.
Though he missed the Australian Open this year due to a hamstring injury, Alcaraz has won 24 of his past 25 matches in major events. He reached the semifinals of the French Open this year before prevailing at Wimbledon.
“I’m feeling really comfortable playing on this court, playing here in New York,” said Alcaraz, the defending champion. “I’m showing my best level here on this court. …
“I’m feeling great physically. (My) game is strong enough mentally, so I think I’m ready to play a great battle against Medvedev in the semifinal.”
—Field Level Media
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