"I had a lot of belief in my ability to serve and hang tough..." Ben Shelton says smilingly after he defeated 4th ranked Jannik Sinner. It was tough alright, as he clocked in 15 aces to win the match. But this is two days later and he dueled with Sebastian Korda in the quarterfinals of the Rolex Shanghai Masters.
After defeating Sinner, Ben's confidence had skyrocketed as to who he could have a fair chance at another success. But decoding the opponent's strategies and shotmaking takes skill to master. Players sometimes have the formula and other times there is an intuition that they have to just go for it and see what happens.
Ben Shelton is one of those nice surprises that are fan friendly but can be a true concern for all his competitors. The muscular 21-year-old had blasted out 17 aces to Korda but when it came down to the wire, Korda was able to come up with that last winning ball to have victory over the feisty Shelton 6-7, 6-2, 7-6.
Ben was able to pull out a pocket full of aces that literally was his 'saving grace' on winning points and the set. It was a slippery slope though as the two Americans had their first meeting of their career. "Luckily I finished it off," Sebastian Korda shook his head in disbelief.
He was the winner over Daniil Medvedev days ago and might not have been sure he'd have enough gas in his tank to pull a victory from the gritty-playing Shelton. "I'm playing good tennis now, and i hope I keep it going, " Korda frankly said.
But when you step on the court with Shelton, no opponent is really sure they will come out a winner. This seems to be the scary part. Ben has those deceptive crosscourts, slices and booming pungent serves that can literally knock anyone off their feet.
The lefty has won doubles with Frances Tiafoe and Felix Auger Aliassime in his debut at the Laver Cup. He has also turned around and defeated Tiafoe at the U.S. Open. He has partnered with Chris Eubanks at Cincinnati and then defeated him in singles.
Ben is crafty and plays highly smart tennis for a guy his age. He is knocking down the top 10 bit by bit, first Tiafoe and then Sinner. No one knows who's next on the chopping block of spins and slices from Shelton. Competitors should watch out when getting in a tiebreak with Big Ben because he can be lethal when he puts on the game face and diabolical game grin.
He sets no limits and says matter-of-factly, "A goal for me is showing up to tournaments and competing for titles."
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