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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Thursday September 7, 2023, 2023

Novak Djokovic

And then there were four. Men's semifinal action comes to NY on Friday, and we're previewing the action.

Photo Source: USTA

And then there were four! It’s semifinal time on Day 12 of the US Open And that means we have two men’s semifinals on tap.

Tennis Express

Let’s have a look at the matchups… .

[1] Carlos Alcaraz v [3] Daniil Medvedev

Episode 4 of the Alcaraz v Medvedev matchup will demand extra diligence from Medvedev who has been plastered by the dynamic Spaniard twice this year, in the final at Indian Wells (6-3, 6-2) and the semifinal at Wimbledon (6-3, 6-3, 6-3).

Those two meetings between the two stylistically different players have created one simple narrative: the matchup is horrible for Medvedev. The Russian seemed lost during both meetings against Alcaraz, as he was unable to hang with the completeness of the Spaniard’s game.

Medvedev’s deep return position and airtight defense can befuddle many top players, but Alcaraz understood from first ball that if he attacked the net and played with enough variation to pull Medvedev out of his comfort zone behind the baseline, he’d create openings to attack.

“It's not easy to play him,” Medvedev said after being smothered by Alcaraz in the Indian Wells final. “I would definitely love to play him on other surfaces, like maybe a little bit faster hard courts to see if I could do better.”

After Wimbledon, where Medvedev never really felt close Alcaraz, the Russian said this: “You have to play your best. You have to play your absolute best. As you say, as I say, I didn't play bad, but I didn't play my absolute best. Against someone like Carlos, Novak, Rafa, you need to be at your best.”

Yesterday after his win over Andrey Rublev in New York, Medvedev said he was playing “10 out of 10” tennis, but would need “11 out of 10” to defeat Alcaraz.

He’s not kidding. The Spaniard, now 16-1 at the US Open, has dropped one set through five matches in NY – he’s looked so comfortable on the hard courts of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. He’ll be difficult to stop for sure.

[2] Novak Djokovic v Ben Shelton

Ben Shelton is a big stage player. It has taken just five Grand Slam main draws for the world to recognize this fact. He has ripped through five rounds in New York, and become the youngest American to reach a US Open semifinal since Michael Chang in 1992.

The thunderous serve, the bombastic forehand, the swagger and air of confidence that belies his ranking – during the NY fortnight Shelton is demonstrating that he possesses that certain je ne sais quoi otherwise known as a champion’s mentality.

Shelton gave reporters a glimpse inside his mind when he was asked about the fact that many out there were calling his run to the Australian Open quarterfinals a fluke, due to the fact that he hadn’t won two matches in a row on the ATP Tour between February and September.

Here’s what he had to say about doubters:

“I'd be lying if I say I don't see it,” he said of critics. “But I'm not a guy who gets frightened or scared by comments on social media. I'm someone that when people are saying too many nice things about me, that's when I get a little soft.

“But when people are saying negative things about me, that just drives me. It's not something that I ever worry about. If I go to sleep at night thinking about it, it's more anger than me being sad. That helps me get out of bed and go to work every single day, work hard to get to where I want to be.

“I like seeing those comments sometimes or messages or doubters. I think that it's something that helps fuel me.”

That’s all well and good, and this tournament will be a resounding success for Shelton no matter what happens against Novak Djokovic on Friday.

To say that it is hard to imagine Shelton getting past the 23-time major champion would be an understatement. That isn’t a knock on Shelton but rather a testament to the amazing level that Djokovic has been able to achieve in 2023. He’s 25-1 at the Slams and zeroing in on a 24th major singles title. He’s as hungry as ever, and even if the 36-year-old has lost a fraction of a step over the last few years, he is able to make up for any deficiency with cunning court craft and Grand Slam savoir faire.

The best returner in history should be able to find ways to probe Shelton’s weaknesses – let’s face it, the American is a raw talent and not the most consistent baseliner at this stage of his career – so that he can advance to his 10th US Open final without too much fuss.

Anything other than a straight sets victory by Djokovic would be a surprise and any other US Open men’s singles final other than Djokovic v Alcaraz would be an even bigger one.

That said, Friday’s semifinals present a great opportunity for Medvedev and Shelton to gain experience, make up ground against daunting rivals and, if the stars align, create an upset for the ages.


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