Florida Tennis: Ben Shelton aims to become a legend tomorrow night

Admittedly, we here at Hail Florida Hail have been tied up with the start of football season and haven’t been able to check in with the run that former Florida tennis start Ben Shelton is having at the US Open. After an unexpectedly deep run at the Australian Open, Shelton had suboptimal results that followed.

But under the bright lights of New York City, Shleton has thrived and embraced the stage and has the opportunity to pull off one of the all-time upsets tomorrow night against one of the titans of the sport.

Florida Tennis: Pick up that phone

When we last checked in on Shelton, he lost in the second round of Wimbledon. In his first full season as a professional, Shelton came into the US Open with a 2023 record of 12-20.

He has had some respectable wins, such as knocking off 29th-ranked Christopher Eubanks in the ATP Masters 1000 Cincinnati, but also some soul-crushing losses, including losing to 156th-ranked Juncheng Shang in July.

His tournament draw in New York started out as a favorable one, and he was able to avoid any seeded players for his first three opponents.

But one can’t avoid other talented players forever, and it has been his last two matches that have catapulted Shelton into the spotlight.

In his round of 16 match, Shelton took on fellow American Tommy Paul in a rematch from their quarterfinal dual at the Australian Open. In combination with a serve that touches up to 147 MPH, Shelton was able to go 6/8 on break point opportunities to dispatch Paul in four sets.

That alone made him the youngest American to reach the quarterfinals of the US Open since Andy Roddick did it in 2002, but Shelton wasn’t content with just being there.

Taking another hard-hitting American Frances Tiafoe, ranked 10th, Shelton was able to neutralize the serve of Tiafoe and held him to winning just 63% of his first serve points. And Tiafoe didn’t get his first serve in, Shelton punished that even more by winning 45% of second serve points.

Shelton went on to win 6-2, 3-6, 7-6, 6-2, and proceeded to do a celebration that had the tennis world buzzing.

It turns out the celebration was a nod from his days with Florida tennis to former Florida Gator track star Grant Holloway.

Who is afraid of the big bad wolf?

Beating two players ranked 14th and 10th will get you noticed.

But Shelton is about to enter the deepest of deep waters if he wants to walk away as the US Open champion.

The final four in New York City are:

  • Carlos Alcaraz – Also 20 years old, Alcaraz is the number one ranked player in the world and the perceived heir to the throne in tennis. After winning the US Open last year, Alcaraz took down Novak Djokovic in an epic five-set duel at Wimbledon this year.
  • Novak Djokovic- With 23 major titles under his belt, Djokovic has the potential to go down as the greatest of all time in the sport
  • Daniil Medvedev- Another big-time face of the sport who won the US Open in 2021 and is trying to position himself as the future heir to the throne.
  • Ben Shelton- Some dude doing the Gator Chomp.

Shelton, though, is proving he is much more than just a guy doing the Gator Chomp, and he will get the chance to officially put his stamp on the sport when he takes on Djokovic tomorrow night in the semifinals.

Djokovic is the clear betting favorite, with betting options out there to see if Shelton can even win one set, let alone three.

The thing with Shelton, though, is if he can get early momentum, and get the New York City crowd on his side, he has the ability to play with a carefree energy that can make it a long night for Djokovic.

Win or lose, the former Florida tennis star is planting himself as one of the future stars of the sport.