The Atlanta native and 2022 NCAA singles champion has a monster serve and an unconventional backstory
Ben Shelton answered the call!
The 20-year-old American tennis upstart, known for his thundering serve and domination on NCAA courts, stole the show from 10th-ranked Frances Tiafoe on Tuesday night, edging out the 2022 US Open fan favorite in a four-set battle (6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2) on the tournament’s premier stage at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Upon winning the match, the flashy Shelton mimicked answering a phone call and then hung up, and became the youngest US Open American men’s semi finalist since Michael Chang in 1992.
"Sometimes, you've got to shut off the brain, close your eyes and just swing," Shelton said afterward, about a turning point in the match when his forehand winner prevented Tiafoe from taking a two-sets-to-one lead. "Some may say 'clutch,' but I don't know about all that."
Ben Shelton hit 2 consecutive double faults when he had set point against Frances Tiafoe.
Set point down against Frances, he comes up with this.
In his first ever US Open quarterfinal, Big Ben is making this a show. 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/aYXemfnQgV
— The Tennis Letter (@TheTennisLetter) September 6, 2023
The NCAA men’s singles championship at Florida in 2022, Shelton only turned pro a little over a year ago, but has drawn notice for his serve — which on Tuesday night reached speeds of up to 140 mph.
And during the match, Shelton was able to break Tiafoe seven times, winning 50% of the points on second serve and 37% on Tiafoe’s first serve, according to USA Today, proving that his return and rally game is also strong.
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The son of former pro tennis player Bryan Shelton — who coached "Big Ben" at Florida — the younger Shelton comes from a huge tennis family. His mom, Lisa, is a former junior player, and her late brother was former world No. 4 doubles and No. 43 singles player Todd Witsken.
Ben’s older sister, Emma, also played college tennis at Florida.
Yet Ben’s road to the near-top of the pro tour hasn’t taken the usual route, per USA Today, with the Atlanta native choosing to play college tennis instead of the more traditional elite and junior circuit.
Earlier this year, he reached the quarterfinals in the Australian Open, but it wasn’t until the spring that he began playing on red clay and grass, the newspaper reports.
On Friday, the tennis sensation also known as “Box Office Ben” — will take his talents to the semifinal round, where he faces a tough road to the final against 23-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic.
“It doesn’t get much better than that,” Shelton said.
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