NEW YORK — Novak Djokovic defeated unseeded American Ben Shelton 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (4) on Friday to secure a record-tying 10th appearance in the US Open final, where he will continue his pursuit of an Open era record 24th Grand Slam.
He returns to the US Open final for the first time since 2021, when he lost to Daniil Medvedev in straight sets. He did not play at Flushing Meadows in 2022 due to the United States’ restrictions on travelers not vaccinated against COVID-19 entering the country.
Shelton made things interesting in the third set, lifting his level of play as Djokovic seemed to get a bit tight as the finish line approached. Shelton broke twice, even held a set point at 5-4 and erased a match point on the way to forcing the concluding tiebreaker. But Djokovic pulled out the win there, then mimicked Shelton’s “Hang up the phone!” celebration gesture.
Djokovic, a 36-year-old from Serbia, will seek a fourth trophy from Flushing Meadows on Sunday and would be the oldest man to win the event in the Open era, which began in 1968. In the final, he will face either defending champion Carlos Alcaraz — who defeated Djokovic for the Wimbledon title in July — or Medvedev.
If Djokovic does end up leaving with the hardware, he would break a tie with Serena Williams for the most major singles championships in the Open era, and match Margaret Court’s all-time singles record.
Regardless of Sunday’s opponent or outcome, No. 2 seed Djokovic will replace No. 1 Alcaraz atop the ATP rankings on Monday.
Djokovic’s 10th US Open final appearance ties Bill Tilden for the most by a man in tournament history. For the third time in his career, Djokovic has reached all four major finals in a calendar year. He won the Australian Open and French Open before Alcaraz denied his quest for the calendar Grand Slam.
ESPN Stats & Information and The Associated Press contributed to this report.