'He Didn't Behave Properly With Respect': Djokovic Makes U-Turn On Shelton Spat

'He Didn't Behave Properly With Respect': Djokovic Makes U-Turn On Shelton Spat

by Nurein Ahmed

Last updated

Novak Djokovic has made a stunning admission as to why he mimicked Ben Shelton's phone celebration during their semifinal clash at the 2023 US Open.

Shelton made waves at his home Slam last year, reaching a maiden semifinal, scoring high-quality wins over countrymen Tommy Paul and Frances Tiafoe to set up a last-four showdown against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

Before that match, Shelton had debuted an iconic phone celebration after beating Tiafoe in the quarterfinal. The 21-year-old was seen gesticulating with his hand, answering an old-fashioned telephone and thundering it down.

But it certainly backfired during his next match because Djokovic defeated him en route to a record-tying 24th Grand Slam win and copied his celebration at the conclusion of the match. Although Shelton did not see the Serb perform it live, he was flattered by his own words.

Djokovic then explained in the post-match press conference that he actually liked the celebration, calling it "original" and downplaying other speculated motives as to why he copied it.

But in a stunning U-turn, Djokovic gave an interview to French newspaper L'Equipe in which he criticized the American. Djokovic now admits he felt provoked because Shelton "did not behave properly with respect" before and during the match.

"This is my reaction to a provocation that came from the other side, it was a reaction against him. He did not behave properly, with respect, on court, and before the match."

"I’m never going to make fun of someone if they don’t do something first. Every time I lose I always give my opponent a hug, I congratulate him, I respect him and his team. If anyone one places himself in the ‘unsportsmanlike zone’, I react."

Djokovic's imitation of the celebration was not well-viewed by Ben Shelton's father, Bryan, who stated that the 36-year-old mocked his son and felt down by his actions.

It will be interesting to hear Shelton's reaction to the news of Djokovic's claims, particularly for being branded as "unsportsmanlike." Shelton and Djokovic are in the same half of the draw at this year's Australian Open and could meet in the fourth round.


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