Ben Shelton wasted no time in his first matches outside the United States

Everything is moving fast for Ben Shelton. when We checked in last August, the young American had just beaten the world’s No. 5 player – the somewhat squiggly Casper Rudd – and was deciding whether to forfeit his NCAA eligibility. Then came the verdict: not entirely.

Next up was a trip to the US Open, his first major tournament, as a wild card. I spoke to Shelton a few days after he lost his first-round match there; He said he was headed out for a month-long training block before competing in the Challengers, which is a notch below the Pro Tour. The feedback was immediate: Chilton won three Challenger titles in three weeks, becoming the first player ever to do so, and catapulted into the top 100 before the year ended. At the start of this season, it was time to head to Australia and compete in his second ever Grand Slam. Again with immediate success: the 20-year-old reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. Shilton lost that match on Wednesday to fellow American Tommy Ball 7-6 (6), 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, but his career is going faster than even the most optimistic of spectators expected. He had not left the United States before this trip.

Shelton is 6-foot-4, an absolute unit His energetic lefty style had smiles at viewers (and, more often than not, at himself), he was one of four All-American men to enter the fourth round, and one of three to enter the quarterfinals. He was far from likely in his group for a deep run. No. 8 seed Taylor Fritz and No. 16 seed Frances Tiafoe, both in disguise Collect shit together Last season, I was knocked out in the second and third rounds, respectively. (that ongoing meme He hints that Fritz’s participation The latest Netflix show He was sentenced, along with a few others.)

Shilton benefited from an unusually smooth course in this Open Championship, where he encountered no seeded players and, up until the quarter-finals, no player was seeded inside the top 60. His most impressive victory along the way was his straight-set victory over the in-form Alexei Popyrin, The Aussie who has two wins over a top 10 player this month. Zooming out, Shelton shouldn’t expect the majors in the future to feel this smooth, but his job is just to play with the guy in front of him, and the tennis he’s produced has been amazing.

If it wasn’t already decisive when he went punch-for-punch with John Isner in Atlanta last year, now it’s clear: Shelton has one of the biggest serves of his generation. Before Paul broke in the second set of the quarterfinals, Shilton had won 68 consecutive serve matches at the Australian Open. He also holds the record for the fastest single serve in this tournament, at 228 km/h (142 mph). Unlike most players who deliver dominant serves, Shelton can move, defend and improvise. Like most players with a dominant serve, the rematch is in urgent need of rehabilitation. But, meanwhile, the incessant interval breaks suit him just fine. His athleticism gives him a bigger upside than his usual forehand – he can rack up points in multiple ways, rather than some manic style – and he’s much easier on the eyes, too.

Earning ranking points from a major tournament can financially and logistically transform any young career. This Australian Open will push Chilton inside the top 50 in the world, and give him entry to any tournament he might want to play this season. His tennis prospects are almost unrecognizable than they were last summer, when he was deciding what to do about college—now taking online courses for a business degree—and still in his career just a few months later. Shelton He said after losing it He is looking forward to getting into the red clay to “use the high bounce to my advantage, move around, slide”. The grass season is more suitable for its match. Realistically, I don’t think he’ll have another major quarterfinal run in it for a while, but he’ll eventually come back, and last year’s decision is getting smarter with each passing week.

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