Novak Djokovic confesses why he felt need to shade Ben Shelton after US Open match

Djokovic imitated Shelton's celebation after beating the American in the US Open semifinal.

by Dzevad Mesic
Novak Djokovic confesses why he felt need to shade Ben Shelton after US Open match
© Getty Images Sport - Mike Stobe

Novak Djokovic confesses there was indeed a reason why he mimicked Ben Shelton's celebration following their US Open match as the Serb defended himself by saying it was "a reaction to a provocation."

Just moments after sealing a three-set win over Shelton in the US Open semifinal, Djokovic was spotted mimicking the American's "hung up the phone" celebration. That moment quickly went viral as many felt the world No. 1 was mocking the 21-year-old American. 

Down by two sets and a break, Shelton managed to get the break back in the eighth game of the third set and tie the set to four games apiece. After getting the break back in the third set, Shelton pulled his phone celebration. However, it didn't lead to a Shelton comeback as Djokovic went on to seal a 6-3 6-2 7-6 (4) win. 

When asked directly if he was mocking Shelton, Djokovic insisted he imitated it just because he thought it was a cool celebration. On the other side, Shelton also claimed he didn't have any problems with it, suggesting it was "flattering" to see a player like Djokovic imitate him. 

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic© Getty Images Sport - Mike Stobe

But still many weren't buying it and the general opinion was that Djokovic was indeed mocking Shelton. Now, Djokovic has shed the light on what really happened. 

"You use the word ‘provoke.' I don't provoke. This is my reaction to a provocation that came from the opposite side. Regarding Ben Shelton, it was a reaction against him, on the fact that he did not behave correctly, with respect on the court, and also before the match," Djokovic told L'Equipe

"That's the story. I'm never going to make fun of someone if they don't do something first. Every time I lose, I always give my opponent a hug, I congratulate him, I respect him and his team. But if someone places themselves in the ‘unsportsmanlike’ zone, I react.”

Djokovic on battling 'big personal problems' in Monte Carlo last year

Last year, two-time Monte Carlo Masters champion Djokovic didn't do well in the Principality. After a first-round bye, Djokovic didn't really play his best tennis against Ivan Gakhov but still escaped with a straight-set win. But in the round-of-16, Djokovic suffered a shock defeat after Lorenzo Musetti stunned the world No. 1 4-6 7-5 6-4.

Throughout the entire match, Djokovic wasn't looking great on the court and he appeared to be nervous and tense. Still, Djokovic managed to go up by a set and open a 4-2 lead in the second set. But then, Djokovic suffered a collapse as Musetti went on to complete a major comeback against the record 24-time Grand Slam champion and send the world No. 1 packing out of Monte Carlo.

After Musetti forced a third set, a frustrated Djokovic broke his racket in frustration. During the match, Djokovic stunningly lost his serve eight times.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

“I didn’t talk about it at the time but, at that time, I was having big personal problems. It is in these circumstances that I become very frustrated,” Djokovic said.

“Obviously, I don’t want to show it too much, I try to remain as professional as possible but I remain human, with emotions… And I wasn’t happy to lose a match. But what awaited me outside of a tennis court mattered more that day."

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Djokovic felt he was the better player in the 2023 Wimbledon final

In the summer, Djokovic was bidding to win his eighth Wimbledon title and tie Roger Federer for the most titles at The Championships. Djokovic pretty routinely made the Wimbledon final, having lost a total of two sets en route to making yet another final at The All England Club.

In the Wimbledon final, Djokovic made a pretty strong start against Carlos Alcaraz, winning the first set with a 6-1 scoreline. But then, Alcaraz managed to win a very tight second set and ultimately clinch a 1-6 7-6 (6) 6-1 3-6 6-4 win. 

Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz
Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

In the 2019 Wimbledon final, Djokovic famously saved two consecutive championship points en route to edging out Federer in a thriller final. Since then, Djokovic has said several times that Federer was the better player that day but it just wasn't meant to happen for the Swiss.

In his interview with L'Equipe, Djokovic repeated that statement. Also, Djokovic said he believes that happened to him in the 2023 Wimbledon final as he felt he was the better player on that day but still lost. After making that statement, Djokovic highlighted that he was not taking anything away from the Spaniard and that the 21-year-old deserved to win.

"This year it was me who was perhaps the best player in the final at Wimbledon for most of the match, I was supposed to win and I lost. That doesn't mean Carlos didn't deserve it. It's like that. At this level, a missed shot can be very costly," Djokovic said.

Novak Djokovic Ben Shelton Us Open