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Ben Shelton’s Astonishing Emergence At AO23

Photo from ATP World Tour/Corinne Dubreuil.

By Scoop Malinowski

Though he lost in four sets to Tommy Paul yesterday in the AO23 quarterfinals, Ben Shelton’s breakout at his second Grand Slam appearance has been astonishing.

At US Open last year, Shelton lost first round as a wildcard to Nuno Borgues in five sets. Then in the Fall Shelton won three ATP Challenger titles and vaulted himself into the top 100 of the ATP rankings.

In his first trip outside of the US, Shelton, competing in only his second Grand Slam, has beaten Zhizhen Zhang in five sets, then Nico Jarry, Alex Popyrin and JJ Wolf. The 20 year old will be ranked in the top 50 next week.

One year ago Shelton was playing line 3 in a college match for the University of Florida where his dad Bryan is the head coach.

What Shelton has achieved this month is almost John McEnroe-esque, when the New Yorker reached the semis of Wimbledon as a 18 year old qualifier.

Shelton, currently sponsored by only New Balance and Yonex racquets, has already exceeded the achievements of his father Bryan who reached a career high best of 55 in the world in 1992. The singles champion of Newport in 1991 and 1992, Bryan Shelton’s best Grand Slam result was fourth round at Wimbledon in 1994.

Where Ben Shelton goes from here is anybody’s guess but Tommy Paul is optimistic, “Unreal. Pumped to see him tear it up this year. He’s very tough to play against, everyone should be excited about his future.”

Notes: To put into context what Shelton has accomplished, Roger Federer lost first round at his first two Grand Slam main draws at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 1999 and didn’t reach a major QF until 2001 at Roland Garros.

Novak Djokovic lost 1R, 2R, 3R and 3R and his first four Slams in 2005 and didn’t reach his first QF until his sixth try at 2006 Roland Garros.

Rafael Nadal reached 3R and 2R and his first two Grand Slams in 2003 and his first QF was in 2005 at Roland Garros (his 6th Grand Slam attempt), which he ended up winning the title.

Denis Kudla on Ben Shelton: “Absolute beast.”

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