Australian Open: Ben Shelton, the American With the Blinding Serve, Returns

He made a splash at last year’s event, reaching the quarterfinals, and went on to have a breakout season.

It all started with a simple text message that, if Bryan Shelton’s memory serves him, went something like this:

“That coulda got really interesting,” wrote his then-20-year-old son, Ben, moments after he won a fifth-set tiebreaker against Zhizhen Zhang at last year’s Australian Open, clinching that first-round match.

Had it not been for that win, in a match that began in the morning and ended at night under the lights, during which Shelton survived a heat postponement, a rain delay and a match point, he might never have had the breakout season that he had last year.

“Not sure I remember it that way, because it did get kind of interesting,” said Shelton by phone shortly after he and his father traveled to Brisbane, Australia, from their Florida home in late December to begin the 2024 season with a pre-Australian Open warm-up tournament. Shelton did, however, recall the unreturnable serve he hit at 4-5, 30-40 down in the fifth set.

Shelton left last year’s Australian Open, his first trip abroad, as a quarterfinalist after succumbing to his friend and fellow American Tommy Paul. By season’s end, Shelton had reached the semifinals at the United States Open alongside the world’s top three players — Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev — and cracked the ATP’s top 15. The young American had begun 2023, his first full year on tour, ranked barely inside the top 100.

Shelton is still very much a work in progress. Despite a serve that topped out at 149 m.p.h. at last year’s U.S. Open, he struggled trying to adapt to clay and grass courts. It is something that he and his father, who left as head coach at the University of Florida last spring to coach his son full time, have worked on diligently during the off-season.

“The biggest thing for him is movement,” said Bryan Shelton, a tour player mostly in the 1990s. “It’s efficiency, being more balanced. The men’s game today is all about the serve and return and creating opportunities to come forward, which Ben can do.”

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Source: Tennis -


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