Ben Shelton was in no mood to be down after falling to Tommy Paul in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open on Wednesday.
The #NextGenATP American, who reached the last eight in just his second Grand Slam appearance, looked back with satisfaction on his performances at Melbourne Park over the past two weeks – as well as the valuable lessons learned from his stellar run.
“I think it was a great experience,” said Shelton after Paul won 7-6(6), 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in an all-American quarterfinal. “It was nice to be there, my first quarterfinal of a Grand Slam.
“I thought I played well. Some things I could do better, things I might do differently next time, but I’m happy with the result, this is my first time at the Australian Open. So, [I’m] get a lot of positives out of it.”
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These two weeks, Shelton defeated Zhang Zhizhen, Nicolas Jarry, Alexei Popyrin and JJ Wolf in a dream debut at Melbourne Park. The 20-year-old, who was ranked No. 569 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings a year ago and was still a University of Florida college player, had never left the United States before this trip to Australia. That made it a journey of discovery for the American both on and off the field.
“The crowds were pretty incredible,” Shelton said. “They supported me. I definitely didn’t expect it to come into this tournament because I’m an American. They kind of treated me like one of them. It was really nice to be able to have the support behind me during my games to play. [I had] there is a lot of laughter about that.
“I definitely exceeded my expectations this week, which I thought I could do on the court – not just tennis-wise, but physically able to play as many three-out-of-five set matches as I have. I mean, I’ve only played one in my career. I was quite pleased with myself in that respect as well.”
The new experiences will continue to come for Shelton in the 2023 season. He is now ranked No. 43 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings and will likely have his first opportunity to compete in the TBEN’s European clay and grass court seasons. Just like in Australia, the southpaw is ready to take on new challenges.
“I’m really looking forward to the clay,” said Shelton, who has trained but never competed on red clay. “The grass too. I think the clay comes first, so that’s what I think of first.
“I think my game is very suitable for clay. Looking forward to being able to use the higher bounces to my advantage, moving, sliding. I’m really looking forward to getting on the red clay, and also the grass.
“Clearly, [they will be] new experiences for me, playing those tournaments that will usually take place outside of the United States. I’m really looking forward to it. I am confident that I will make it.”
Another aspect of life on the Tour that Shelton may have to get used to is competing against his fellow Americans on the biggest stages in the world. He will join nine of his compatriots in the Top 50 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on Monday, and the 20-year-old is happy to feed off of the buzz currently reigning in American men’s tennis.
“I was just in the treatment room where my physio was working [and] my coach Dean [Goldfine] came in,” Shelton explained. “We talked a little bit about American tennis. I was like, ‘I don’t understand why we couldn’t have five, six guys in the Top 20 at the end of this year with the way some of these guys are playing that aren’t in the top 20 now. ‘.
Jenson Brooksby, Sebastian Korda [who made the] quarterfinals here. So many other guys who haven’t been mentioned as much this week who have had huge breakthroughs over the past few years.
“I think there is a lot of hope for American tennis. I’m really looking forward to being a part of it.”