Photo of Novak Djokovic celebrating a big point at the 2023 US Open tennis championships in New York.

2023 US Open SF Preview: Djokovic Looks To Avoid Shelton Stunner; Alcaraz Faces Medvedev

The men’s semifinals take over on Friday at the 2023 US Open, with second seed Novak Djokovic aiming to reach his 10th US Open final against unseeded Ben Shelton. Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz will look to make back-to-back finals against 2021 US Open champion Daniil Medvedev.

Universal Tennis INSIGHTS helps us preview the action.

Ben Shelton (15.68 UTR Rating) vs. (2) Novak Djokovic (16.41)

As Djokovic said, Shelton has been “serving bombs” this US Open as he’s made his way into his first major semifinal, which will mark their first meeting.

Twice in the same game in the fourth round, Shelton landed serves of 149 mph, and Shelton leads the tournament in aces with 76 through five matches. “When his serve is on, he's very difficult player to play against, especially because he's lefty,” Djokovic said.

But, as we know, what works against others tends not to work against Djokovic, who’s playing in his 47th Grand Slam semifinal, an all-time record.

And Djokovic’s serve numbers have been equally impressive as Shelton’s. The Serb has held 91% of the time, compared to 87% for Shelton, and Djokovic has saved a higher percentage of break points (77% to 58%).

Djokovic will have the experience edge. He’s playing in his 100th US Open match (86-13), whereas Shelton is contesting just his seventh (5-1).

But perhaps that will loosen Shelton up and let the 6-foot-4 left play freely. After all, before the 2023 US Open, Shelton, the 2022 NCAA champion at the University of Florida who started his pro career on the UTR Pro Tennis Tour, hadn’t won back-to-back matches since his Australian Open quarterfinal run in January.

“It's an advantage with my game style playing someone who's never played me before. I think that I can bring some things to the table that maybe you don't see in your normal match that you play on the ATP Tour,” said Shelton, who’s the youngest American to reach the US Open semifinals since Michael Chang, also 20, in 1992.

Djokovic, however, is rarely in a giving mood at this stage of the tournament. He has won 21 of his past 22 major championship semifinals, and he’s 9-3 in US Open semifinals. INSIGHTS has the 36-year-old as a heavy favorite, at 84%.

(1) Carlos Alcaraz (16.34) vs. (3) Daniil Medvedev (16.22)

Alcaraz is trying to do what no man has done at the US Open since Roger Federer in 2008: defend his singles title. That’s right: Not since Federer won five consecutive US Open titles from 2004-2008 has a man defended his singles crown in New York.

Since Alcaraz won his maiden major title at last year’s US Open, the Spaniard is 24-1 at Grand Slam events. He’s dropped only one set through five matches and boasts a tour-best 58-6 record on the year.

Alcaraz also has beaten Medvedev two of the three times they’ve played, including on hard courts at Indian Wells in March and in straight sets in the 2023 Wimbledon semifinals. “Last matches that I played against Daniil I played a tactical game, played perfectly,” Alcaraz said.

But Medvedev is accustomed to the bright lights and big stage of Arthur Ashe Stadium. He’s pursuing his third US Open final and fifth major championship final overall. The 2021 US Open champion stared down Djokovic in that final and kept the Serbian from one of the few accolades missing from his resume: the calendar-year Grand Slam.

Might Medvedev pull off another similarly-sized Big Apple upset? The Russian said he’ll have to bring an “11 out of 10” to upset the defending champion.

INSIGHTS doesn’t see it happening. Alcaraz is the favorite, at 57%.

INSIGHTS and UTR Ratings as of 11 a.m. EST, September 8, 2023. 

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