In keeping with the ATP, it’s the first time since 2000 – when Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Chris Woodruff reached the final eight – that three US gamers have reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.
Probably the most stunning – and definitely least recognized – identify of the three is 20-year-old Ben Shelton, who had by no means been outdoors the US earlier than touring to New Zealand and Australia in preparation for the primary Grand Slam of the yr.
A strong left-hander, Shelton is just enjoying in his second main, along with his first Grand Slam look coming on the US Open in late 2022.
The 20-year-old at the moment boasts a profession excessive rating – quantity 89 on the planet – and his performances in Australia so far imply he’s quick approaching a spot within the prime 50.
“He is an enormous server, he is acquired an unimaginable forehand that he can use to actually strain his opponents and dictate gamers round,” Barbara Schett, a former professional tennis participant and present commentator, advised CNN Sports activities.
“He is left-handed, which is a big 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, profitable two titles, attaining a career-high world rating of 55 and reaching the French open combined doubles closing.
Nevertheless, Shelton Sr. – who has been a profitable coach within the States since retirement – initially had hassle convincing his son to play tennis, with Ben favoring American soccer as a teen.
Ben ultimately determined to comply with in his father’s footsteps and spent the early years of his profession growing his recreation in school and on the ATP Challenger Circuit.
“He has an excellent mixture of intense depth on the courtroom and his father, Bryan Shelton, who was a participant on the tour for a lot of, a few years and it looks like he can be [Ben] has the proper angle and is aware of precisely what he is doing on the market,” mentioned Schett.
“It’s extremely refreshing to see somebody so younger and new.”
Shelton’s first main break on the ATP Tour got here in August 2022 on the Cincinnati Masters, the place he defeated world No. 1. 56 Lorenzo Sonego after which secured the primary win of his profession towards one of many prime 5 gamers by beating Casper Ruud in straight units.
Shelton’s first style of Grand Slam motion got here shortly after when he misplaced to Portugal’s Nuno Borges in a grueling five-setter within the opening spherical of the US Open.
Nevertheless, he ended 2022 on the Challenger Tour in model, reaching 4 finals from six tournaments and profitable three of them to finish the yr within the prime 100.
Shelton had a combined begin to 2023, shedding in qualifying on the Adelaide Worldwide earlier than securing one other win towards a prime 50 opponent by beating Sebastian Baez within the first spherical in Auckland.
Regardless of the promise he has proven, few would have predicted the exceptional run Shelton has had on the Australian Open since.
“Undoubtedly a shock,” he advised reporters of his success. “I acquired on the aircraft with no expectations. I do know it is very arduous adjusting from the US to Australia with the jet lag, the time change and all.
“It was my first time by no means being outdoors the US, I knew it was going to be a wrestle. I believe perhaps it helped me a little bit bit to not have that expectation or feeling like I’ve to perform one thing, simply going on the market, being myself and with the ability to play freely.
“I believe that was an enormous contributor to my success.”
The Atlanta native secured his first Grand Slam win by defeating China’s Zhang Zhizhen in 5 units earlier than defeating Chile’s Nicolas Jarry after which Australia’s Alexei Popyrin in straight units.
On Monday, Shelton defeated compatriot JJ Wolf – one other up-and-coming US expertise – by one other brutal 5 to safe his spot within the quarterfinals, the place he’ll meet one other American in Tommy Paul.
Paul, who’s a longtime prime 50 participant with an ATP title underneath his belt, was ranked twenty eighth on the planet and will probably be Shelton’s hardest check but on the Australian Open.
Paul will undoubtedly be the favourite to succeed in the semifinals, however it is going to be arduous to guess towards Shelton, who is constant his dream run Down Beneath.
The 2023 season was already wanting like a promising yr for US tennis, however Shelton’s rise has solely strengthened an thrilling group of younger stars-to-be.