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On the Australian Open, Ben Shelton Is Able to Go Global


“I’m really excited to play major draw of my very first Slam overseas,” Shelton said. “Perhaps eight months ago I wouldn’t think I’d be on this position, but I’m lucky I even have a superb team around me helping me.”

Shelton’s girlfriend is Anna Hall, a heptathlete who won a bronze medal on the world track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., in July. Shelton, who was competing in a Challenger in Indianapolis that week, watched her events on his phone between matches. Each Hall and Shelton turned skilled last summer and, though he has trounced her in pickleball, he likes to indicate that he will not be one of the best athlete of the 2.

“She’s outshining me,” he said.

“It’s great, actually,” Goldfine said. “Because they challenge one another, and she or he totally understands what it takes to be at an elite level.”

Shelton, at 6-foot-4 and 195 kilos, has a percussive, all-court game, based around a big-bang forehand and serve and an attacking mentality that usually carries him to the web. He’s “still raw” and still determining one of the best patterns of play, in line with Goldfine, who has coached the previous top players Todd Martin and Andy Roddick and most recently helped coach the 22-year-old American Sebastian Korda.

But, to Goldfine, Shelton’s upside is evident.

“I believe with the natural gifts he has — his athleticism, his love for competing and for taking challenges head-on and his mental toughness — I believe Ben has the likelihood to be an awesome player who can someday challenge for Grand Slam titles,” he said. “He has all of the variables you see in the highest players, and being a lefty helps, definitely.”

Shelton actually has fantastic tennis genes. His father, Bryan, the lads’s tennis coach on the University of Florida, was ranked as high as No. 55 during his pro profession and reached the fourth round of Wimbledon as a qualifier in 1994. Ben’s mother, Lisa, played junior tennis and is the sister of Todd Witsken, a three-time all-American on the University of Southern California who peaked at No. 43 in singles on the ATP Tour before tragically dying of brain cancer at age 34.

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