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Ben Shelton: African-American Tennis Prodigy Lighting up the Courts

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Ben Shelton is regarded as the future of men’s tennis in America. He’s the youngest player to play in the U.S. Open singles since Andy Rodick in 2003. Shelton is an entertainer on the court and while some fans might want him to focus on the game, his presence is alluring. Will he be the face of American tennis? Learn more about him below.

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Ben Shelton’s Early Career

spotcovery-Mackenzie McDonald (left) and Ben Shelton (right) after winning in the first round of men's doubles at the 2023 DC Open
Mackenzie McDonald (left) and Ben Shelton (right) after winning in the first round of men’s doubles at the 2023 DC Open. Source: Wikimedia licensed by  CC-BY-SA-4.0

Shelton comes from a tennis family. His father, mother, sister, and uncle played tennis. Even then, his first love was football and he played in the quarterback position. However, he changed his mind and took up tennis.

His father, Bryan Shelton, coached him. At the age of 16, Shelton wanted to play in International Tennis Federation (ITF) junior events abroad but his father disagreed with him. He wanted him to stay in America and be the country’s best player first. 

True to his father’s words, he was able to focus on his development and became the best junior player in America. He reached number three in the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Boys ranking and won the Doubles Clay Court Tournament. 

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Career in College

The tennis player played for the University of Florida, where he enrolled for a degree in finance. Shelton helped Florida to win the 2021 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) title. 

He won the singles title at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) event and the 2022 NCAA Singles Championship and was America’s top tennis player. In 2022, Shelton turned pro.

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Professional Career

Ben Shelton celebrating a victory. Source: Instagram

The American had an interesting start to his professional career. His run in the Cincinnati Masters, where he beat a top 100 (Lorenzo Sonego) and a top 10 (Casper Ruud) player, convinced him to step up to the top level. 

He debuted in the grand slam at the U.S. Open but was eliminated in the first round. His first challenger title came at the Charlottesville Men’s Pro Challenger. 

After that, Shelton won two more challenger titles at the Knoxville Challenger and Champaign–Urbana Challenger. These victories saw Ben Shelton enter the top 100 player’s ranking.

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Achievements in 2023

Ben Shelton playing at the U.S. Open. Source: Instagram

At the 2023 Australian Open, Ben Shelton reached the quarter-finals, having beaten: 

This gave his world ranking a huge boost, entering the top 50 to moving up to 44.  

His next two events at the Delray Beach Open and the Mexican Open ended in early defeats. He picked himself up at Indian Wells and moved into the second round. This might not have seemed to be an optimum preparation for the U.S. Open. 

Nonetheless, Shelton improved his grand slam performance and reached the semifinals for the first time, where he lost to Novak Djokovic. This saw him rise to world number 19. After, he featured in the 2023 Rolex Shanghai Masters and won the 2023 Japan Open Tennis Championships.

In the coming season, it’ll be interesting to see whether Ben Shelton can continue making a mark in the game. He’s America’s big prospect, and going by his performances so far, he can get men’s tennis back on the world map in the U.S. 

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