American tennis fans are constantly on the hunt for young and talented up-and-comers to pull for. 19-year-old Ben Shelton is a name that all tennis fans, regardless of national affiliation, should add to their radar.
Shelton, son of University of Florida tennis coach Bryan, is entering his third year as a member of the Florida tennis team. Shelton has dominated the collegiate ranks over his first two seasons in Gainesville. As a freshman he held a 28-5 overall record, securing the final point in Florida’s first-ever team National Championship. Shelton followed that up with a record of 37-5 as a sophomore, cruising his way to an NCAA Singles Championship. He finished the season as the #1 ranked collegiate singles player.
Although it appears Shelton is set to return to the University of Florida to play another season under his father, he has wasted no time getting professional match experience. Since June of 2021, Shelton has competed in six Challenger and five ITF events. He holds a record of 28-11 over that time and has won nine of his last 11 matches.
Standing at a wiry 6’3″, 190 lbs, Shelton uses a powerful serve and heavy topspin lefty forehand to bully his opponents. I use the term bully as an endearing way to describe the 19-year-old’s forceful and attacking style of play.
Ben Shelton in Atlanta
Shelton will be competing in his first main draw tour-level event this week in Atlanta. Currently ranked #323 in the world, Shelton received a wild card into the event.
He will open up his tournament against qualifier Ramkumar Ramanathan. The 27-year-old native of India is currently ranked #197 in the world. I believe Shelton has a great chance to win this match and set up a second-round battle with #2 seed John Isner. The young American has never faced someone with the serve of Isner. Inexperienced players often struggle to adjust to the speed and accuracy of a serve from a player of that caliber. With that said, I expect Shelton to play very free while taking aggressive chances during his return games. I would not expect him to win a potential matchup against the six-time Atlanta Open champion, but I would certainly be intrigued to see how Shelton handles that match.
If he were to best Ramanathan and Isner, Shelton would already have massively exceeded expectations in his first Tour-level event. With that said, I expect the 19-year-old to do great things in this sport and could see him make that happen very quickly.
When Shelton does make the transition to a full-time professional, he will look to join the likes of former collegiate athletes turned Top 10 players such as Kevin Anderson, John Isner, and Cameron Norrie.
Embed from Getty Images