‘Novak Djokovic will have pride to show the youngsters’ in Ben Shelton clash, says tennis great

An imperious Novak Djokovic

Justine Henin believes Novak Djokovic will have “the pride to show the youngsters he’s the one with the legs and the genius” in his US Open showdown with Ben Shelton.

The seven-time Grand Slam champion described rising star Shelton as “phenomenal” and “loves” his “spectacular tennis.”

Three-time US Open winner Djokovic will face Shelton in the semi-finals of the 2023 edition of the hard-court major in New York on Friday. It will be the first meeting between the 36-year-old great and the 20-year-old American.

The Serbian overcame world No 9 Taylor Fritz in a comfortable straight-set quarter-final, while Shelton battled past compatriot Frances Tiafoe in four sets.

Djokovic, who won the Australian and French Open titles this year before losing in the Wimbledon final, is seeking to win a record-extending 24th men’s major.

In an interview with Eurosport, Henin lauded the talent of Shelton and likened the way he plays with joy to Carlos Alcaraz’s approach to tennis.

“He’s phenomenal. He was already phenomenal when we discovered him at this level in Melbourne. I have to be honest, it’s been very tough for him in the weeks after,” said the Belgian.

“He has waited for the US Open to show himself again, and he’s chosen his moment well. We love his spectacular tennis. He exudes freshness and charisma.

“We’ve often talked about Carlos Alcaraz, about the notion of pleasure, and now he (Shelton) is enjoying it. We’re not going to compare them, but to be able to offer that to the American public is exceptional. It’s crazy to see him in the semi-finals.”

The former world No 1 also expressed her hope that Shelton can test Djokovic in the semi-final, while suggesting the Serb will be intent on sending a message.

“We want there to be a match. We want Shelton, with his tennis, to be able to upset him. Not that we don’t want to see Djokovic win, but we’re looking forward to this confrontation, this clash of styles too,” added Henin.

“Will he (Shelton) be able to stay carefree? He seems well on the way to doing so. He’s expended a lot of physical energy, and you can tell he’s worked hard on that.

“After that, when you’re up against Novak Djokovic on such an important date, it’s hard not to imagine him there. Djokovic will also have the pride to show the youngsters that he’s the one with the legs and the genius to win.”

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