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



CNN
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Rising stars from the USA 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 accordance with 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.

Probably the most stunning – and positively least recognized – 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 yr had by no means even been exterior of the US.

A giant-hitting lefty, Shelton is enjoying 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 rapidly 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, informed 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 this planet and making the blended doubles closing of the French Open.

Nonetheless, 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 teen.

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

“He has an important mixture of additionally being intense on the court docket 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 like he [Ben] has the fitting mindset and he is aware of precisely what he’s doing on the market,” Schett mentioned.

“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, dropping within the opening spherical of the US Open in a grueling five-setter in opposition to Portugal’s Nuno Borges.

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

Shelton had a blended begin to 2023, dropping 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.

Ben Shelton will face fellow American Tommy Paul in the quarterfinals.

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

“Positively a shock,” he informed reporters of his success. “I obtained on the airplane with no expectations. I do know that it’s very onerous to regulate to Australia from the USA simply with the jet lag, time change and every part.

“It being my first time, by no means being out of the USA, I knew it will be a wrestle. So I believe it perhaps has helped me a bit bit type 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 by one other brutal five-setter in opposition to 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 beneath his belt, has been ranked as excessive as No. 28 on this planet and might be Shelton’s hardest take a look at but on the Australian Open.

Paul will little doubt be the favourite to achieve the semifinals, however it will likely be onerous to wager in opposition to Shelton persevering with his dream run Down Underneath.

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