Australian Open: Ben Shelton avoids Novak Djokovic and hang-up drama

Ben Shelton lost in the Australian Open third round to Adrian Mannarino after a cracker

by Jovica Ilic
Australian Open: Ben Shelton avoids Novak Djokovic and hang-up drama
© Matthew Stockman / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Ben Shelton's anticipated clash with Novak Djokovic in the fourth round of the Australian Open has been thwarted. The American embraced an intense battle with Adrian Mannarino in the third round, falling in five sets and missing the duel against world no.

1 in the last 16. Thus, the intriguing phone hang-up drama between Shelton and Djokovic will have to unfold on a different stage, maybe in Indian Wells or Miami. Shelton embarked on an impressive journey in the previous two years, climbing over 550 spots in the ATP ranking and concluding the 2023 season comfortably within the top-20.

The dynamic American gained recognition for his unique phone hang-up celebration, a spectacle that garnered attention, particularly during last year's US Open. Djokovic enjoyed it at first, calling it original. Novak and Ben met in the US Open semi-final, and the Serb sealed the deal in straight sets, hanging up the phone after the win and conveying a decisive message to his opponent.

Novak Djokovic, Australian Open 2024© Phil Walter / Staff - Getty Images Sport

However, Djokovic's initial approval of Shelton's antics seemed to wane, and he openly criticized the behavior, deeming it disrespectful.

Novak wants to see more respect from Ben toward his opponents, and he can not test that in Melbourne despite doing his part of the job. Djokovic secured a place in his 16th Australian Open fourth round after beating Tomas Martin Etcheverry in straight sets.

Shelton failed to join him in the second week, though, falling to Mannarino 7-6, 1-6, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 after four hours and 46 minutes. The veteran prevailed in his third five-setter in Melbourne this year, overpowering the young gun in sets four and five for his second appearance in the last 16 in Melbourne in the previous three years.

Shelton served at 72% but did not use it, missing a chance to do more damage with his initial shot. The American claimed six points more than the Frenchman, buidling the advantage before losing ground after the third set. Adrian hit 49 winners and 40 unforced errors, overshadowing the rival's 73-75 ratio.

Ben Shelton lost to Adrian Mannarino in five sets at the Australian Open.

The veteran grabbed six breaks from 17 break chances and defended 14 out of 21 opportunities offered to his opponent. Shelton lost serve two times in a row in the decider, ending his run in the third round and missing the Djokovic clash.

Ben forged a massive advantage in the shortest range up to four strokes. Adrian worked hard to erase it in the mid-range and most advanced exchanges. The American sprayed a forehand error in the encounter's fifth game to fall behind.

Ben pulled it back in game eight with a smash winner ahead of four commanding holds that introduced a tie break. Mannarino moved 5-2 up with a service winner and earned two set points with a volley winner at the net in the tenth point.

Shelton netted a routine backhand on the first, handing the opener to his rival after 63 minutes. Ben stood as the only player on the court in the second set, dominating serve and return to level the overall score and gather a boost.

Mannarino survived break points in the first game, and Shelton fired an ace in game two for 1-1.

Ben Shelton, Australian Open 2024© Julian Finney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

The veteran faced break points in the third game, climbing back to deuce and squandering a game point.

Ben seized the fourth break chance after forcing the rival's volley error, moving in front and gaining momentum. The young gun opened a 3-1 gap with a powerful serve in game four and came from 40-15 down on the return in the next one.

The American painted a forehand down the line return winner, delivering another break and extending the gap. Mannarino hit a double fault in the seventh game, losing serve for the third time in a row and handing the set to Shelton.

Riding the wave of confidence, Ben fired a forehand down the line return winner in the third set's fourth game, clinching a break and opening a 3-1 advantage. Mannarino stayed focused and pulled the break back in game five with a volley winner at the net.

The veteran denied break points in the sixth game, leveling the score at 3-3. The American served at 4-4 and sprayed a forehand error, getting broken and falling behind. Mannarino served for the set in game ten and experienced a break at 15, keeping Shelton in contention.

The set went into a tie break, and Ben forged a 5-0 advantage with two mini-breaks. The young gun fired an ace at 6-2, moving two sets to one in front and looking good to seal the deal. Instead, Adrian denied a break point in the fourth set's first game with a smash winner and served well in the remaining games.

Mannarino pushed strong on the return at 3-2, landing a forehand down the line winner and earning a pivotal break. The Frenchman fired an ace in the ninth game, taking the set 6-3 and forcing a decider.

Ben Shelton, Australian Open 2024© Julian Finney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Ben struggled behind the initial shot big time in the first part of the set, playing three loose service games and falling 3-2 behind after squandering game points.

Shelton experienced another blow in game seven, blowing a 40-0 lead and getting broken for the second straight time. Adrian served for rhe victory at 5-2 and wasted a match point. Ben converted the fifth break point, extending the battle and holding in game nine for 4-5.

Mannarino served for the victory in game ten and held at 30 following Shelton's loose backhand, celebrating another five-setter victory and setting the clash versus Novak Djokovic.

Ben Shelton Novak Djokovic Adrian Mannarino