Tennis Prose



What I Love About Ben Shelton

By Scoop Malinowski

Tennis needs Ben Shelton.

It’s been a very long time since a young player has burst on the scene with an absolutely unwavering, fearless and ruthless mindset to knock off the elites.

Marcelo Rios and Lleyton Hewitt were the most recent famous young rebels who barnstormed through the ATP straight to the top, doing it their way and not minding ruffling anyone’s feathers or the media criticism. Hewitt was especially memorable, roaring and yelling Cmonnnnnn!!! which aggravated more than a few ATP veterans. It made for fantastic theater, drama and ego clashes on the court.

Shelton has a similar feisty, tenacious, no fear attitude. He will yell and roar and fist pump after making important shots but there is also a respectful tone about his intensity, it is not offensive at all. So this shows a special combination of bold ambition and intelligence by Shelton.

The 20 year old lefthander’s methods are working. A year ago, Shelton was ranked outside the top 500, now he’s no. 39 in the world. Yesterday he slayed a desperate Fabio Fognini like he was nothing, 64 61. The 35 year old Fognini is clinging to save his career and improve his ranking of 88 but Shelton shot him down easily.

Tennis journalist Richard Pagliaro is impressed by Shelton. “Shelton shows a bigger set of cojones than any American player since Roddick maybe. Absolutely he can be top ten, this kid has no fear and a massive game.”

Tennis Channel announcer Prakash Amritraj loves “the college fiery spirit” of Shelton.

When you see Shelton play and his burning desire to win, it reminds of the young Hewitt, young Nadal… and the old saying “He came, he saw, he conquered.” You just know the kid is going to get there and nothing or nobody is going to be able to stop him. That’s how I feel about Shelton, he will not be denied. And it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch his journey.

So far Shelton has only played 16 ATP matches and he has won 9 of them. He’s already made the QF of a Grand Slam – AO this year where he lost to Tommy Paul. With more match experience and learning the tendencies and skills of the ATP top 50, the sky is the limit for this 6-foot-4 dynamo. And the closer he gets to the top, the more fire and fury and emotional adrenaline he will need to use.

Next up for Shelton will be another stiff test in defending champion and world no. 5 Taylor Fritz.

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