Australian Open 2023: Rising American Ben Shelton is having a dream run

MELBOURNE, Australia — Earlier than coming to New Zealand and Australia this month, Ben Shelton had by no means left the US. Now his first journey overseas has been prolonged after he defeated rising Australian Alexei Popyrin within the third spherical.

“It feels nice,” Shelton stated of creating the final 16 of a Grand Slam. “I stated on the courtroom that it was a little bit of a pinch expertise.”

Shelton’s path to skilled tennis started on the US collegiate degree, enjoying for the College of Florida in Gainesville, for probably the most half below the watchful eye of his father (and Gators coach), Bryan Shelton.

Bryan Shelton was knowledgeable tennis participant who gained two ATP titles in Newport within the early ’90s after a school profession at Georgia Tech. And whereas Ben initially did not wish to pursue tennis and observe in his father’s footsteps, he relented at age 12, he picked up a racket and launched into a journey that might reunite them in faculty.

And whereas it typically occurs that proficient European or Australian children hit the skilled circuits of their teenagers (simply have a look at the Fruhvirtova sisters in Melbourne this 12 months), professionally, the 20-year-old’s profession actually started to take off. in mid 2022.

His breakthrough got here on the Masters 1000 occasion in Cincinnati in August. Ranked No. 229 on the time, Shelton gained two matches in opposition to top-60 opponents: he beat Lorenzo Sonego within the first spherical, however crucially in opposition to Casper Ruud within the second spherical for his first win in opposition to a top-5 opponent. .

He determined in August that he would depart the Florida program to show skilled, and the big-serving lefty then turned to Grand Slam tennis, a first-round loss to World No. 104 Nuno Borges in 5 units.

Those that had been watching Shelton’s progress knew that speedy enchancment (and a speedy stand up the ranks) was within the offing. Following his US Open debut, he had back-to-back victories at Challenger Tour tournaments in Charlottesville, Virginia, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Champaign, Illinois, representing a number of top-200 gamers and exhibiting the world that he was able to step up on the earth. high quality and opponent.

Cue, the passport.

“There have been gamers throughout the US who may problem and beat me each week, and I did not win each USTA match I performed in. So my dad’s ideas have been, ‘I am getting higher right here, I am not the perfect.’ of the nation, so there actually is not a cause to go to a unique nation the place you’d in all probability lose and study a variety of the identical issues,'” Shelton stated of why he had by no means left the US till now.

“I am undecided if there was a second the place issues clicked or I simply knew that I used to be regularly enhancing my sport. I began to belief myself increasingly more going into the summer time.”

“The extra I competed at the next degree, the extra assured I used to be to maintain shifting ahead.”

Confidence took him down and the beginning of his summer time was optimistic; after a qualifying loss in Adelaide, Shelton then defeated world No. 41 Sebastian Baez in Auckland earlier than falling to No. 64-ranked Quentin Halys.

Nevertheless, she had already comfortably secured a major draw spot on the Australian Open and made her Melbourne debut away from the hustle and bustle of Courtroom 14.

After making his Slam debut in New York with an epic five-setter, Shelton backed it up with one other within the first spherical right here, incomes his first main win over China’s Zhang Zhizhen in three hours and 31 minutes. After saluting on match level within the fifth set tiebreaker, Shelton gave the Gator Chomp to a small entourage and a few followers watching the match.

He then defeated Chilean qualifier Nicolás Jarry in straight units within the second spherical earlier than defeating Popyrin, and the rowdy Australian crowd at John Cain Enviornment, within the third. The Australian was match, defeating American No. 1 Taylor Fritz within the second spherical, however Shelton’s work price, serve and velocity proved an excessive amount of.

After their match, Popyrin stated that Shelton was “a power to be reckoned with” and could possibly be within the high 10 in a matter of months. So how far can he go, not less than in Melbourne? Nicely, Shelton’s path ahead on the Australian Open is comparatively light.

His compatriot JJ Wolf awaits within the fourth spherical. The pair have by no means met, however Wolf is ranked simply 18 locations above Shelton at 67th on the earth. It is one other winnable matchup that would prolong Shelton’s unlikely run into the quarterfinals.

And given the seeds which have already fallen into their fourth infield (Ruud seeded 2, Fritz seeded 8, Alexander Zverev seeded 12 and Matteo Berrettini seeded 13), there is not any cause somebody like Shelton could not go additional. . If issues go effectively for him, within the quarterfinals he would anticipate both Tommy Paul (one other American, ranked 112) or Roberto Bautista Agut (ranked 24), who’s coming off a five-setter within the second spherical. and a grueling four-setter in opposition to Andy Murray.

Monday’s conflict with Wolf won’t be the final we see of Shelton or Gator Chomp in Melbourne this 12 months.

Leave a Comment