Florida junior Ben Shelton showed he has future star potential in the world of professional tennis this past week during his Association of Tennis Professionals Masters 1000 debut.
Now, Shelton will continue to grow his name recognition as he announced Tuesday his intentions to forgo his final two years of collegiate eligibility and turn pro.
“While this wasn’t an easy decision, I’m excited for the next chapter in my career,” Shelton said in a statement posted to Twitter Tuesday.
The reigning NCAA singles national champion jumped to No. 165 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings after taking down two top-100 players — including No. 5 Casper Ruud — before falling to No. 11 Cameron Norrie in the Round of 16 in Cincinnati Aug. 18.
Shelton defeated No. 56 Lorenzo Sonego Aug. 16 to become the first player to win an NCAA singles title and ATP Masters 1000 match in the same season. He then beat Ruud Aug. 15, making him the youngest American to best a top-5 opponent since former world No. 1 and major champion Andy Roddick in 2001.
Shelton’s performance resulted in recognition from the social media accounts of the U.S. Open, ATP Tour and Tennis Channel. He garnered praise from Brad Gilbert, a former player and coach and current analyst, who pointed out Shelton’s left-handed serve and forehand as a source of trouble for opponents.
His earning’s totaled $84,000 in the first two rounds of the Cincinnati tournament. This is money he will now be allowed to accept after electing not to return to Florida.
This outing comes less than three months after he won the NCAA Singles Championship. Shelton beat San Diego redshirt senior August Holmgren in three sets to close his sophomore season and establish himself as one of the best players in the country.
Shelton racked up accolades at the conference level as well. He helped Florida win the Southeastern Conference Tournament, claimed the singles title and brought home the SEC Tournament MVP.
His team-leading 37 singles wins and 27 wins against ranked opponents resulted in a No.1 singles ranking at the season’s end. Shelton and UF teammate Sam Riffice collected 18 doubles wins and found themselves ranked as the No. 5 pair in the country. The duo made a run to the quarterfinals in the NCAA Championships.
In just his second year at Florida, Shelton was named the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Player of the Year and SEC Player of the Year. He also made the All-SEC First Team.
Shelton will depart from Gainesville as one of the most decorated Gators tennis players in history.
“It has been a once in a lifetime experience to become part of the Florida family and to compete for national championships,” Shelton said. “These are memories I will cherish forever. I have made brothers for life.”
Shelton’s father, Bryan Shelton — who is also the head coach of the Florida men’s tennis team — was influential in Shelton’s upbringing in the sport. In his statement he confirmed that his father and mother were both involved in this latest decision as well.
Shelton’s next action on the court will be at the U.S. Open, which offered him a wildcard spot into the main draw, guaranteeing him $75,000 in first-round prize money. The tournament begins Aug. 29.
Kyle Bumpers is a fourth-year journalism major with a specialization in sports and media. He is the Gators men's tennis beat reporter for The Alligator. When off the clock, he watches too many movies and writes too many Letterboxd reviews.