Despite playing the most international sport of all, Ben Shelton never used his passport until he left for Adelaide just before the New Year.
Now, for the first time ever, he finds himself in the last eight of the Australian Open overseas and has a chance to progress even further.
The disheveled left-hander with a pump-action serve meets compatriot Tommy Paul after beating another American underdog in JJ Wolf, beating him 6-7 6-2 6-7 7-6 in three and three quarters , surpassed 6:2 hrs.
Ben Shelton celebrates after winning a five-set thriller against fellow American JJ Wolf
20-year-old Shelton will now surpass his father’s all-time world rankings and break into the top 50
Shelton, whose father Bryan reached the world top 60 in the ’90s, was the breakthrough star of this tournament and his progress has seen him surpass his father’s career high.
There are some strange coincidences associated with his success during this fortnight. His parents met at that tournament in 1993 when his mother was present as the sister of Todd Witsken, the late US player who died aged 34. Witsken reached the quarter-finals in Melbourne 35 years ago, his best result of his career.
If he could go on, it would probably bring more to tennis in America than any series Netflix is currently showing about the sport.
The two Americans hug after their almost four-hour epic at the Australian Open on the net
Fans are clamoring for selfies with the 20-year-old as he leaves the pitch after his big win
Shelton, 20, is the youngest player from the United States to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal since Andy Roddick in 2001. The Americans have been desperate to replace Roddick since his retirement and there is optimism about what could happen as ten of them are set to make the world top 50 next week.
For the first time since 2000, there are three to three in the quarterfinals. Seb Korda, who has perhaps the greatest potential of all, plays Russia’s Karen Khachanov in the top half of the draw overnight.
Shelton only made the world top 400 in July after attending the University of Florida for two years after avoiding the international youth circuit on his father’s advice.
America has been looking for a successor to Andy Roddick for eleven years
After becoming a national collegiate tennis champion last year – and then transitioning mainly to distance learning for a business degree – he finished 2022 by winning three straight Challenger events and then decided to finally follow the global tour.
“I got on the plane with no expectations. I know it’s very hard to adjust to Australia from the United States with the jet lag, the time change and everything,” he said.
“It was my first time never being outside the United States, I knew it was going to be a struggle. But I think maybe it helped me a bit not having that expectation or the feeling that I have to perform.
He will not give up his studies: “I take the lessons a little slower than when I was at school full-time. I don’t have a huge workload. I really want to graduate, that’s important to me. ‘
In doubles, Britain’s Joe Salisbury, here 2020 champion with partner Rajeev Ram, was eliminated from the third round when they were beaten 6-7 7-6 6-2 by Monaco’s Hugo Nys and Poland’s Jan Zielinski.
Shelton plays a forehand return; after his Wolf win, he will play another American in Tommy Paul
Paul celebrates after beating Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut to secure his own place in the quarterfinals
Salisbury then spoke about the back problems he’s been struggling with in recent months, linked to disc and ligament issues in his lower spine.
“It’s probably not something that’s going to completely fix itself and I’m going to have to manage it for the rest of my career,” said the world number two doubles player.
In the women’s, Magda Linette is the unexpected player from Poland in the quarterfinals after beating world number four Caroline Garcia 7-6, 6-4.
Her compatriot Iga Swiatek was supposed to be the star of this event, but after losing in the fourth round, the world No. 45 hoists her country’s flag and she meets former Wimbledon finalist Karolina Pliskova in the last eight.