Ben Shelton emerges as US tennis’ latest star during dream Australian Open run

CNN
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Rising stars from america function prominently within the males’s facet of the draw on the Australian Open, making up three of the eight gamers ithat reached reached the quarterfinals in Melbourne.

In response to the ATP, it’s the primary time since 2000 – when Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Chris Woodruff reached the final eight – that three US gamers have made the Australian Open’s quarterfinals.

Essentially the most stunning – and definitely least identified – title of the three is 20-year-old Ben Shelton, who earlier than touring to New Zealand and Australia in preparation for the primary grand slam of the 12 months had by no means even been outdoors of the US.

An enormous-hitting lefty, Shelton is taking part in in solely his second main, together with his first grand slam look coming on the US Open on the finish of 2022.

The 20-year-old at the moment boasts a career-high rating – world No. 89 – and his performances up to now in Australia imply he’s shortly closing in on a spot within the high 50.

“He’s a giant server, he has an unbelievable forehand the place he can actually put stress on his opponents and dictate the gamers round,” Barbara Schett, a former skilled tennis participant and present commentator, instructed CNN Sports activities.

“He’s a left hander, which is a giant benefit, and he has this lightness about him.”

Shelton actually has the perfect background to assist him succeed, as his father, Bryan Shelton, performed tennis professionally on the ATP Tour, successful two titles, reaching a career-high rating of 55 on the earth and making the combined doubles last of the French Open.

Nevertheless, Shelton Sr. – who has been a profitable coach within the States since retiring – initially struggled to persuade his son to play tennis, with Ben favoring American Soccer as a teenager.

Ben did finally determine to observe in his father’s footsteps and has spent the early years of his profession creating his recreation in school and on the ATP Challenger circuit.

“He has an awesome mixture of additionally being intense on the courtroom after which he has his dad, Bryan Shelton, who was once a participant on the Tour for a lot of, a few years and it looks as if he [Ben] has the fitting mindset and he is aware of precisely what he’s doing on the market,” Schett stated.

“It’s very refreshing to see any individual so younger and new.”

Shelton’s first main breakthrough on the ATP Tour got here on the Cincinnati Masters in August 2022, the place he beat world no. 56 Lorenzo Sonego after which secured the primary win of his profession over a high 5 participant, beating Casper Ruud in straight units.

Shelton’s first style of grand slam motion got here quickly after, shedding within the opening spherical of the US Open in a grueling five-setter towards Portugal’s Nuno Borges.

Nevertheless, he completed 2022 on the Challenger Tour with aplomb by reaching 4 finals out of six tournaments, successful three of them to finish the 12 months ranked inside the highest 100.

Shelton had a combined begin to 2023, shedding in qualifying on the Adelaide Worldwide earlier than occurring to safe one other win over a high 50 opponent by beating Sebastian Baez within the first spherical in Auckland.

Regardless of the promise he has proven, few would have predicted the outstanding run Shelton has since loved on the Australian Open.

“Positively a shock,” he instructed reporters of his success. “I bought on the aircraft with no expectations. I do know that it’s very onerous to regulate to Australia from america simply with the jet lag, time change and the whole lot.

“It being my first time, by no means being out of america, I knew it will be a battle. So I believe it perhaps has helped me a bit of bit form of not having that expectation or the sensation that I’ve to carry out, however having the ability to simply go on the market, be myself and play free.

“I believe that’s been a giant contribution to my success.”

The Atlanta native secured his first grand slam victory by getting the higher of China’s Zhang Zhizhen in 5 units, earlier than he beat Chile’s Nicolas Jarry after which Australia’s Alexei Popyrin in straight units.

On Monday, Shelton got here via one other brutal five-setter towards compatriot J. J. Wolf – one other rising US expertise – to safe his place within the quarterfinals, the place he’ll face one other American in Tommy Paul.

Paul, who’s a longtime high 50 participant with an ATP title below his belt, has been ranked as excessive as No. 28 on the earth and will probably be Shelton’s hardest check but on the Australian Open.

Paul will little doubt be the favourite to succeed in the semifinals, however it is going to be onerous to guess towards Shelton persevering with his dream run Down Underneath.

The 2023 season was already trying like a promising 12 months for US tennis, however Shelton’s emergence has solely additional bolstered an thrilling group of younger future stars.