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More milestones as Ben Shelton, Novak Djokovic march into US Open semi-finals

Ben Shelton is through to the US Open semi-finals after his win over compatriot Frances Tiafoe on Wednesday.

Ben Shelton is through to the US Open semi-finals after his win over compatriot Frances Tiafoe on Wednesday. Photo: AP

Novak Djokovic has shrugged off stifling heat and Taylor Fritz once again to breeze into a record 47th grand slam semi-final at the US Open.

Djokovic’s 6-1 6-4 6-4 quarter-final victory was his eighth win from as many meetings with Fritz and keeps the Serb on course for a fourth Flushing Meadows crown that would have him match Margaret Court’s record haul of 24 singles slams.

With temperatures once again nudging towards 38 degrees Celsius, Djokovic turned in a cool, clinical effort, improving his record against American opposition at the US Open to a perfect 12-0.

The 36-year-old will also eclipse Roger Federer’s 46 grand slam semi-final appearances when he faces 20-year-old Ben Shelton, who upstaged 10th seed Frances Tiafoe 6-3 3-6 7-6 (9-7) 6-2 in the first all-African-American grand slam quarter-final of the open era stretching back to 1968.

The son of former ATP Tour professional Byron, Shelton is the youngest American since Michael Chang in 1992 to make the men’s final four at Flushing Meadows.

“I’m thinking to myself as I’m walking to get my towel in the fourth set, and it’s like, ‘This is the greatest moment on the tennis court of my life, and I’m in a lot of pain physically,” Shelton said.

“But I’m loving it. I think that was just kind of the story of today.”

Both hit the ball hard but it was Shelton who drew the “ooohs” and “aaahs” from the crowd with his every-bit-of-strength lefty forehands that topped 160km/h and serves that zoomed even faster.

“Sometimes you’ve got to shut off the brain, close your eyes and just swing,” Shelton said about his forehand return winner off an 83mph second serve that prevented Tiafoe from taking a two-sets-to-one lead.

“Some may say ‘clutch,’ but I don’t know about all that.”

Asked whether he knew whom he’d play next, Shelton smiled and said, knowingly: “He’s won maybe 23 of these, something like that? It doesn’t get much better than that.”

He’s also two wins from becoming the first US men’s winner of the tournament since Andy Roddick 20 years ago.

“It’s expected of course that people are backing the home player and there is nothing wrong with that,” Djokovic said.

“I actually like the energy, like the atmosphere on centre court here.

“Day sessions, night sessions, people are getting into it.

“I’m fine with that. I thrive on that energy and try to use it as a fuel.

“I’ve been playing on this court for so many years, so many epic matches, I can’t wait for another one in a few days time.”

Fritz could not keep the party going, although the 25-year-old had his opportunities but could convert only two of 12 break chances while committing 51 unforced errors, almost double his opponent’s 26.

As well as losing all seven previous career meetings with Djokovic, Fritz had never beaten a top-10 opponent at a grand slam but rolled into the quarter-finals in hot form.

He was the only player to not drop a set and was broken only once in 50 service games.

Djokovic wasted no time ending both those runs, breaking the American three times and then taking the first set with a booming ace.

Fritz finally held serve to open the second but was soon feeling the pressure again with Djokovic breaking the ninth seed a fourth time to go ahead 2-1 and close out the set in the same emphatic style with an ace.

With the crowd getting behind him, Fritz would offer up more resistance in the third but could not find a way back, with Djokovic getting the decisive break at 5-4 and then holding serve – improving to 13-0 in US Open quarter-finals.

-Reuters

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