In Footsteps Of Roddick, Shelton Thunders Into US Open QFs

  • Posted: Sep 03, 2023

In Footsteps Of Roddick, Shelton Thunders Into US Open QFs

20-year-old is youngest American quarter-finalist since Roddick in 2002

Revenge was sweet for Ben Shelton on Sunday at the US Open where the 20-year-old defeated countryman Tommy Paul to become the youngest American man in more than 20 years to reach the quarter-finals in New York.

Shelton lost against Paul in four sets in the Australian Open quarter-finals in January, but ensured history did not repeat itself at the final major of the season. The lefty recovered from squandering a 4-1 lead in the third set to triumph 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

“I learned to be mentally tough,” Shelton said when reflecting on his previous match against Paul. “When I was playing in Australia after a long week I was looking at my box saying ‘My legs are dead, I am tired, I can’t go anymore’. I realised how important it is to believe in myself. That I can go the full way emotionally and physically and now I have that belief here.”

With his two-hour, 50-minute victory, Shelton has become the youngest American to advance to the last eight since a then-20-year-old Andy Roddick in 2002. The 2003 champion Roddick fell in the quarter-final stage that year, but Shelton will be hoping to go at least one step further and reach his maiden slam semi-final when he takes on Frances Tiafoe or Rinky Hijikata on Tuesday.

“Being at home here in front of an American crowd, I have felt the love all week. I played another American today and we had a great battle,” Shelton said. “It is hard to believe I am playing on Arthur Ashe right now with the stands completely full.”

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Shelton thundered down a 147-mph missile ace in his previous win against Aslan Karatsev but topped that facing Paul. He smashed two 149 mph serves at 3-1 in the third set to register a new fastest serve of the tournament. Roddick hit an all-time US Open record 152 mph serve in 2004.

After dropping serve in his first service game, the 2022 NCAA champion broke back and recovered from squandering a 4-1 lead in the third set. The 20-year-old played with great intensity to overpower Paul with his destructive weapons, striking 36 winners, including 16 aces, to advance. Shelton flexed his left bicep after sealing victory on his first match point, embracing the New York crowd.

“I think straight adrenaline,” Shelton said on his two 149mph serves. “I think any other atmosphere I wouldn’t be able to get it down and I think my arm might have come off. But it is feeling pretty good right now.”

Shelton is widely regarded as one of the United States’ brightest prospects and is showing why this fortnight, now up 20 spots to No. 27 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. He reached a career-high No. 35 in May, but before this week, had not won consecutive tour-level matches since the Australian Open.

The lefty is also aiming to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals for the first time. Shelton is fourth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Next Gen Race To Jeddah.

Paul was competing in the fourth round in New York for the first time, having rallied from two sets down for the first time in his career to defeat Roman Safiullin in the second round. The 26-year-old is currently 12th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, but will be surpassed by Frances Tiafoe if the 25-year-old wins later on Sunday.

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