Ben Shelton, the new gunner of American tennis

Ben Shelton during his fourth round match at the US Open in New York on September 3, 2023.

An ace at 227 kilometers per hour. Another at 240 kilometers per hour. A winning service at 209 kilometers per hour. And a new ace at 240 kilometers per hour. In the middle of the third set of his fourth round at the US Open, Ben Shelton (47ᵉ world) panicked the radar of Arthur-Ashe court, during a game dispatched in barely a minute.

“It’s cool, but it’s not so good for my tennistempered the American after the match. The proof, I was broken twice in a row after that game. Hit harder and harder, chase the record [détenu par John Isner, qui avait servi à 253 kilomètres-heure lors d’une rencontre de Coupe Davis en 2016], it can interfere with my rhythm. »

But that did not prevent him from getting the better of his compatriot Tommy Paul (14ᵉ) in four sets (6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4) and qualifying for his second quarter-final. in Grand Slam, in just five appearances at a Major. He finds there the American number two Frances Tiafoe (10ᵉ) on the night of Tuesday September 5 to Wednesday September 6 – while a little earlier, the Californian Taylor Fritz (9ᵉ) challenges Serbian Novak Djokovic (2ᵉ).

A sign of the revival of American tennis, it has been eighteen years since the country had three representatives at this stage of the New York Grand Slam competition. “Americans are part of tennis culture and it’s nice to see this young generation, rejoiced the former French player Camille Pin with the World before Roland Garros. They have nice players, who have a good attitude on the pitch. »

From college tennis to the main circuit

Of the eight players in the top 50 in the United States, Ben Shelton is perhaps the most talented. A devastating serve, a dazzling left arm, permanent aggression, a forward-facing game with many net climbs: from the height of his ninety-three meters, the athletic 20-year-old player with bulging muscles offers tennis as creative as it is unpredictable.

Son of Bryan Shelton, 55th in the world in the 1990s, the native of Atlanta (Georgia) did not set his sights on tennis until late. As a child, he preferred American football to the little yellow ball, which he ended up choosing around the age of 12-13. In 2020, then number 1 American under 18, he chose to study finance at the University of Florida and play for the Florida Gators university team, managed by his father. “He was not ready to start on the circuit”remembers the latter, who is still his coach, in the columns of The Team.

Everything is accelerating in 2022: after winning the university singles championship in the spring, Ben Shelton cut his teeth on the secondary circuit by reaching his first two Challenger finals, then winning his first ATP match in Atlanta. But it was in August, at the Masters 1000 in Cincinnati (Ohio), that he truly revealed himself to the general public. After a victory against the Italian Lorenzo Sonego, he created a sensation against the Norwegian Casper Ruud, then 5ᵉ in the world and recent finalist at Roland-Garros, and enters the top 200. “Cis an important mark for me, and it proves to me that I am in the right direction”, he rejoiced.

showman spirit

The fiery American then decided to embark on the professional circuit while continuing his studies from a distance. A profitable choice: he wins the last three American Challenger tournaments of the season and reaches the top 100… without ever having played elsewhere than in the United States!


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It was only at the end of December that he leaves the Americas for the first time, towards Oceania. Here again, his left paw and his instinctive game, coupled with his showman spirit which thrives on hot atmospheres, wreaked havoc which led him to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.. “Honestly, if he plays like that every game, the guy is [dans le] top 10 within six months (…). If he continues like this, he is an actor to be reckoned with.”then reacted his victim in the third round, the Australian Alexei Popyrin (41ᵉ).

But from February to the US Open, the American tornado is no longer so impactful and fails to win two consecutive matches on the main circuit. This does not prevent him from continuing to show his enthusiasm on the ground. “You have to be in the right state of mind, explains Ben Shelton has The Team. Having a smile helps make things fun. And when I have fun, I play my best tennis. » If the recipe is not a 100% guarantee of success, it pays off again in New York.

Laura Potter

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