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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Monday January 23, 2023

 
Ben Shelton

Ben Shelton is playing in his second main draw at a major. Now he's into the quarterfinals.

Photo Source: Getty

He’d never been out of the country. He’d played only one Grand Slam main draw. He had eight ATP matches under his belt, and had only won half.

Tennis Express

There were myriad reasons to overlook 20-year-old Ben Shelton as a potential quarterfinalist at the 2023 Australian Open, but enough promise to think: maybe this kid can be a difference maker if he gets a workable draw.

Shelton, who reached the quarterfinals with a 6-7(5) 6-2 6-7(4) 7-6(4) 6-2 victory over JJ Wolf on Monday in Melbourne, got the workable draw and let his tennis do the rest of the talking.

Now the American, the son of former ATP pro and current Florida Gators coach Bryan Shelton, is the talk of the tournament, his ingratiating smile and swagger making waves with each passing round.


And his ride may not be over yet.

Already the first NCAA singles champion to make the quarterfinals of the Australian Open the following year since the legendary Arthur Ashe in 1966, Shelton will face either 24th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut or compatriot Tommy Paul in the quarterfinals.

If it is Paul, it will mean that the American men have placed three men in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time since 2005 and at the Australian Open for the first time since 2000.

Shelton’s name was not on many short lists for a deep run, but armed with a wicked serve, searing ground strokes, explosive moment and a winning mentality, he has bucked the odds and proven that experience isn’t required to have success at the majors.

His third-round opponent, Australia’s Alexei Popyrin, was duly impressed after falling to the Atlanta native in straight sets.

“Honestly if this is the way he plays day in, day out, the guy is top-10 in six months,” he said.

Popyrin may be proven right. Shelton entered the tournament at No.89 in the rankings and is already up to 43 in the live rankings. If he reaches the semis he would go up to No.32. He’ll have zero points to defend in the next six months, so that top-10 ranking could come true.

For now, the focus will be on the task at hand. Ben Shelton is in position to continue the dream at Melbourne and, this being his first time leaving the United States, prolong what has been a very productive trip abroad.

 

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