Ben Shelton, the reigning N.C.A.A. Division I men’s singles champion and one of the crucial exciting young tennis talents in the USA, turned skilled on Tuesday, and he’s ready for quite a couple of changes.
He’ll make his first trip outside the USA.
He’ll play his first tournament on red clay.
He’ll play his first tennis on grass.
But for starters, Shelton, 19, will play in his first Grand Slam tournament after receiving a wild card into the most important draw of the U.S. Open, which begins Monday in Queens.
“I believe that I actually have some pretty good momentum right away,” Shelton said in a telephone interview on Monday, explaining his decision to show pro. “I actually enjoy being on the market and playing on tour and attending to play a few of these really cool tournaments, and that’s something I need to proceed to do and never should take a five- or six-month break for the school season. I really like playing college tennis, but I’ve definitely had essentially the most fun playing in these pro events.”
After two seasons on the University of Florida, where his father, Bryan, is the lads’s tennis coach, Shelton has definitely ticked two big boxes: clinching the national team title in 2021 for Florida as a freshman by winning the decisive match against Baylor after which winning the person title this spring.
But what sealed the deal for him on leaving college tennis were his results on the professional tour over the previous couple of weeks: a decent three-set duel and defeat in Atlanta against John Isner, long the top-ranked American, after which eye-catching victories at a Masters 1000 tournament, the tier below the Grand Slams, outside Cincinnati last week. He began the event, the Western and Southern Open, with wins over Lorenzo Sonego of Italy and fifth-ranked Casper Ruud of Norway.
Amateurs can play pro events and accumulate rating points. Shelton is as much as No. 171 in singles, making him the third-highest teenager within the ATP rankings behind No. 4 Carlos Alcaraz of Spain and No. 32 Holger Rune of Denmark, who’re each 19 years old and already Grand Slam quarterfinalists. But turning skilled will allow Shelton to maintain his prize money of $84,510 from Cincinnati and the $80,000 he’ll earn for enjoying in the primary round of the U.S. Open.
By turning pro, Shelton will follow the trail of his father, who peaked as a top-60 singles player within the Nineties during a golden era for American men’s tennis and who reached the fourth round of Wimbledon as a qualifier in 1994, upsetting the No. 2 seed Michael Stich of Germany within the opening round.
But while Bryan Shelton was 6-foot-1 and played right-handed with attacking tools and speed, his son is a 6-4 lefty — still a bonus in tennis — with an intimidating serve and knockout power from the baseline, particularly together with his whipping forehand. Ben Shelton often put that shot to devastating use against Ruud when he was not busy flicking a between-the-legs lob winner that left Ruud looking stunned at the web.
“I believe things have definitely accelerated quite a bit faster than I had planned or thought with Ben’s development on the court and together with his maturity as well,” Bryan Shelton said in a telephone interview from Gainesville, Fla., the university’s city, on Monday.
Ben Shelton entered elite tennis comparatively late, having not competed and even played often until age 11 when he decided to stop his nascent profession at quarterback and concentrate on the family sport.
“This was the identical kid who said that ‘tennis won’t be my sport’ when he was younger,” Bryan Shelton said. “So he definitely got here to it on his own. There was no pressure from mom or dad or sister.”
Ben’s older sister, Emma, is a senior on Florida’s women’s tennis team. Their mother, Lisa, was also an achieved junior player and is the sister of the previous world No. 4 doubles and No. 43 singles player Todd Witsken.
“We kid around, like which genes is Ben twiddling with, the Shelton genes or the Witsken genes?” Bryan Shelton said. “He’s got some good blood running through him, that’s of course.”
Ben Shelton said his father’s tennis knowledge played a key role in his decision to decide on the game.
“I saw that my dad was a university coach and knew quite a bit in regards to the game,” he said. “My probabilities of going far in the game and having that resource was definitely going to be helpful. The opposite thing was I grew form of late. So going into the top of middle school, there was numerous huge kids in football, and I hadn’t really hit my growth spurt yet. I used to be possibly just a little bored with getting bashed up on a regular basis.”
He now has a construct well suited to playing on this age of taller players, which incorporates Daniil Medvedev of Russia (6-6), Alexander Zverev of Germany (6-6) and Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece (6-4), all of whom are top-five players.
However the Sheltons are well aware that big power and promising early results are not any guarantee of reaching the large time. Ben Shelton got a fast reminder of the pains of the professional game within the round of 16 on the Western and Southern Open, when he was drubbed, 6-0, 6-2, in a night-session match on Center Court by Cameron Norrie, a British left-hander who was a former collegiate No. 1 at Texas Christian University.
“There’s definitely numerous different players on the market; not only one style of tennis you’ll win with,” Ben Shelton said. “I definitely learned that from match to match you’re going to should have a unique game plan and have the ability to make adjustments. You’re not all the time going to have an ideal day. And if you’re not playing well out on the professional tour, just about everyone can benefit from that, so I form of learned that I would like to think just a little quicker on my feet.”
Bryan Shelton, who has coached his son from the start, will proceed to guide Ben’s development with assistance on the road from Dean Goldfine, a veteran American coach who long worked with the American star Todd Martin. Most recently, Goldfine helped coach Sebastian Korda, 22, one of the crucial promising young American men’s players, whose father, Petr, an Australian Open champion, was on tour similtaneously Bryan Shelton.
Ben Shelton will probably be managed by TEAM8, the small management company that was founded by Roger Federer, considered one of Shelton’s tennis idols, and his agent, Tony Godsick, who has an extended reference to the Shelton family. Ben Shelton will work daily with Alessandro Barel Di Sant Albano, who represents a longtime American teenage star, 18-year-old Coco Gauff.
Bryan Shelton knows firsthand all that may go awry on tour.
“It’s a troublesome sport, and the game is just a part of it,” he said. “It’s coping with the travel and coping with losses and coping with feeling lonely.”
But Bryan Shelton also knows what it takes, and he sees reassuring signs as he prepares for the bittersweet experience of losing his Florida team’s No. 1 player and watching his son make an enormous step forward.
“It took me an extended time to get to where he’s at, and he began later than I did,” Bryan Shelton said. “So he’s just a unique animal than I used to be, and I try not to check an excessive amount of what I did and just help him along the best way, but I also realize he’s got a much higher ceiling.”