Ben Shelton has a knack for peaking at the defining moments of his collegiate career, earning the title-winning match win for the University of Florida at the 2021 NCAA Championships and being on top form at the 2022 singles championships to capture the singles title in May gain
Since then, the 19-year-old has reached the finals of the ATP Challenger Tour twice and the semi-finals twice in his native USA. He also won on his tour-level debut last month in Atlanta before losing in the third set in a tie-breaker John Isnerwho was full of praise for his young compatriot after the game.
On Tuesday at the Western & Southern Open, Shelton was well prepared for his ATP Masters 1000 debut and delighted the home crowd on the Porsche Court. On the right, a three-pointer against Italy Lorenzo Sonegothe wildcard scored a 7-6(5), 3-6, 7-5 win in two hours and 52 minutes. The win propelled him into the top 200 of the Pepperstone ATP rankings and set up a second-round showdown with the fifth seed Kasper Ruud.
“That means a lot [to get my first Masters 1000 win]’ he said after the game. “I was really grateful for that [tournament director] Eric [Butorac] give me a wildcard here. I am very happy to be able to play my first here in the USA. It’s a great atmosphere here and it was a lot of fun today so I’m looking forward to round 2.”
Shelton who deserved one US Open Main draw wildcard through his NCAA singles title, defeated Sonego by claiming his only stoppage of play in his last game after a nearly hour rain delay. In the opening set, the American failed to convert six break chances mid-set, but he made the tiebreak after failing to break point on his own delivery.
Despite two holds at serve in the second set, a mid-serve slip cost him the set. Shelton secured break points in back-to-back service games early in the decider before scoring the final shot with a heavy baseline shot.
“I thought by the time I got back on the court I had a good plan of attack and was happy to get that first break,” added Shelton, who said he’s changed clothes, listened to music and worked with his strength coach to get ready to play during the rain delay.
Shelton, who was world No. 547 when he won the NCAA singles title in May, is now No. 197 on the Pepperstone ATP Live rankings and could climb to No. 170 with a second-round win.
“That’s great,” he said upon hearing the news. “I didn’t realize that, but it’s cool that I made it into the top 200. That’s definitely a tick for me, so I’m glad I’m moving in the right direction.”
Did you know?
Shelton is trained by his father, Bryan Sheltonwho is the Florida men’s tennis head coach and a former world No. 55.
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