Djokovic defeated 20-year-old Ben Shelton in straight sets in a near-partisan atmosphere in the US Open semifinal. After converting his match point, the Serbian mimicked his opponent's signature celebration that he deployed in the quarterfinal win over Frances Tiafoe, pretending to pick up a phone call and hanging up.
Ben Shelton was asked to give his thoughts on Djokovic producing a carbon copy of his celebration. It didn't dawn on Shelton during their post-match handshake until he saw it on TV. And he gave a very articulate response, saying, 'You know, as a kid growing up, I always learned that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so that's all I have to say about that.'
Djokovic confessed to 'stealing' the celebration adding that he was fond of it because it was original. Tennis fans didn't give Djokovic the benefit of the doubt or a free pass, with some feeling that he went overboard with his celebration when he ought to have stayed classy. Others felt that Djokovic was disrespectful to his 20-year-old opponent.
Now Shelton's father has had his say on the matter, and unlike his son Ben, Bryan was less pleased by Djokovic believing he mocked his son's dialed-in celebration. The 57-year-old, who currently coaches in a full-time capacity, tore into Djokovic for craving the love and attention of tennis fans and ridiculed his behavior.
"He wants to be loved so much, Novak… He wanted to mock Ben at the end. It wasn't something he was doing just to copy Ben. It was to mock him. And that's too bad, for that to come from such a great champion."