Tennis: Shelton won’t be drawn on comments attributed to Djokovic at Australian Open

AP , Monday 15 Jan 2024

Ben Shelton is more concerned about his next match at the Australian Open than something Novak Djokovic may have said or done after their U.S. Open semifinal last September.

USA s Ben Shelton hits a return against Spain s Roberto Bautista Agut during their men s singles match on day two of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 15, 2024. AFP

That can wait. The pair could meet again in the fourth round at Melbourne Park, where Djokovic is aiming for his 11th Australian Open title.

The 16th-seeded Shelton, who reached the quarterfinals last year in his first trip to Melbourne Park, beat Spanish veteran Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 7-6 (2), 7-5 on Monday. He’ll meet Australian Chris O’Connell in the second round.

Comments attributed to Djokovic by the French sports newspaper L’Equipe emerged this week, saying the 24-time major winner mocked Shelton in New York in retaliation for some unsporting provocation and a lack of respect.

After winning the semifinal, Djokovic mimicked the American’s “Hang up the phone!” celebration gesture. He then pointed to his temple and pounded his fist on his chest. At the time, Djokovic said he was merely copying the celebration.

Shelton had gained a following during the tournament for his victory celebrations — pretending his hand is an old-style telephone handset that he slams down.

In a news conference after Shelton’s opening win here Monday, an Australian journalist read out the comments reported by L’Equipe.

It’s not something Shelton was going to get hung up on.

“I feel like I’ve been asked about it constantly in the last four or five months,” he said. “I would rather just let it settle and move forward.

“We’re in Australia now, and we’re at the Australian Open and not the U.S. Open anymore. I’m just focusing on the Australian Open and happy and grateful to be here.”

Asked if he ever deliberately did things to provoke a rival, Shelton said he’s just there to enjoy himself on the tennis court.

“Everyone can have their opinion on who I am or how I act,” he said. “But, yeah, I don’t have an answer to your question.”

As for the timing of Djokovic’s comments, Shelton said he’d answered questions about it in the past because of the media interview environment and it’s “not like I want to openly talk about this, or I would even bring it up.”

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