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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Ben Shelton advances to Australian Open Round of 16

Australian Open marks Shelton's second Grand Slam appearance

<p>Ben Shelton celebrates during a match against TCU March 17.</p>

Ben Shelton celebrates during a match against TCU March 17.

Ben Shelton was faced with the decision to stay at UF and continue his collegiate tennis career or forgo his college eligibility to bet on himself just five months ago.

He’s now in the Round of 16 of the 2023 Australian Open.

“It feels great,” Shelton said. “I said on the court that it's a pinch-me moment.”

His appearance in the Australian Open is only his second main draw appearance of a Grand Slam. Shelton played in the U.S. Open and fell to Association of Tennis Professionals No. 111 Nuno Borges in five sets (7-6 (6), 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (8), 6-3) Aug. 29.

Shelton has won three-straight matches in his Australian Open debut after his first-round loss at the U.S. Open. He’ll look to keep rolling in the Round of 16 Monday.

Shelton’s first match of the Australian Open played out in a similar fashion. He went to five sets again but this time came out victorious. He took down ATP No. 96 Zhizhen Zhang in five sets (4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (4)).

He’s looked dominant since the slow start. Shelton didn’t drop a set in the second and third rounds.

The 20-year-old American defeated 27-year-old Nicolas Jarry in the second round (7-6 (3), 7-6 (3), 7-5). He beat ATP No. 113 Australian Alexei Popyrin (6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-4) in front of his home crowd in the third round.

“I got booed,” Shelton said. “First time at a pro match that that's happened. It was unreal.”

The son of Florida head coach Bryan Shelton became one of the most established athletes on campus before he moved on to taking down ranked professional players. 

Shelton contributed to two Florida Southeastern Conference championship titles in 2021 and 2022. He earned a National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s tennis team championship in 2021, and he won the NCAA individual title in 2022.

He hasn’t hesitated while adapting to playing in a professional setting after his decision to go pro Aug. 23. Shelton grew accustomed to college environments and smaller stages, but he’s taken in the moment while playing in John Cain Arena, he said.

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“It was unbelievable, kind of hard to describe,” he said. “I definitely wouldn't have thought that I would be here in this moment six months ago, four months ago.”

When Shelton was told Popyrin said he would be in the top 10 in six months, he was appreciative but said he tries to keep himself grounded when thinking about expectations for himself.

“I'm trying not to put number limitations in my head because there's always something more that you can strive for,” he said.

Shelton now moves on to the fourth round, in which he’ll play fellow American No. 67 J.J. Wolf. The match will be played at midnight Monday.

Contact Kyle Bumpers at Follow him on Twitter @BumpersKyle.

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Kyle Bumpers

Kyle Bumpers is a fourth-year journalism major and the sports editor of The Alligator. In his free time, he cries about Russell Wilson and writes an outrageous amount of movie reviews on Letterboxd.

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