Ben Shelton’s father claims that Novak Djokovic wanted to ‘mock’ his son by imitating his phone-slamming celebration after US Open semifinals win
- Shelton previously said he saw the imitation as ‘the great form of flattery’
- The 20-year-old’s father was also the player’s coach at the University of Florida
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Ben Shelton’s father has suggested Novak Djokovic had no intentions other than to ‘mock’ his son as he imitated his celebration after beating the 20-year-old in the US Open semi-finals.
Speak with GQ just five days after Djokovic defeated third-ranked Daniil Medvedev to win his fourth US Open title, Bryan Shelton claimed the world number 1 ‘wants to be loved so badly’ that he had to copy his son, who was often cheered by the home crowd because of the twenty-year drought since an American man last won in New York.
“He wants to be loved so badly, Novak…” Bryan told the magazine as part of a long article about his son.
“He wanted to mock Ben at the end. It wasn’t something he did just to copy Ben. It was to mock him. And that’s a shame, when it comes from such a great champion.’
Djokovic won the first two sets against Shelton 6-3 6-2, before taking on the youngster in the third (7-6), which was decided by a tiebreak (7-4 for Djokovic)
Ben Shelton’s father – Bryan (R) – said Novak Djokovic copied his son’s party to be loved
Novak Djokovic copies Shelton’s phone-slamming celebration after his US Open semifinals victory
The 36-year-old Serbian won his fourth US Open title earlier this month, taking his grand slam total to 24
Shelton has his phone celebration after his quarterfinal match against Frances Tiafoe
After the final point, Djokovic pretended to pick up the phone and slam it down, which is the same celebration Shelton used after upsetting Francis Tiafoe in the previous round.
“I just love Ben’s celebration,” Djokovic said after the semi-final victory. ‘I thought it was very original and copied it. I stole his party.”
To Ben’s credit, he didn’t take the gesture as personally as his father did.
“I don’t like it when I’m on social media and I see people telling me how I can or can’t celebrate,” the Atlanta, Georgia, native said, adding, “If you win the game, you deserve it to do what you want.’
“As a child I was always taught that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
Shelton played alongside coach father Bryan at the University of Florida before turning pro last year
Although he didn’t defy the odds to beat Djokovic, Shelton, who only turned pro last year, said he remembered the way he approached the third set against the Serb and how it helped him go neck-and-neck against a of the best players of all time.
“Okay, maybe I won’t win this match,” Shelton remembers thinking. “But I want this man to know – I want the audience to know – that I’m here to play. And that I’ll be back.’
Shelton, who starred at the University of Florida, is looking to build on his breakout year and is tipped to become US tennis’ first breakout male star since Andy Roddick. He spoke to GQ about the pressure of always being in the public eye.
“At the US Open, the camera and the microphone are always there,” Shelton said. “When you go to the gym, they follow you. I’m talking to Coco (Gauff) after we both win our match, there’s a microphone above our heads.’
“You don’t really have a safe place where people aren’t looking. Every now and then you say something you wish you hadn’t said. And just look at the camera that captured you, it’s kind of in your head.”