Ben Shelton could be the man to end America’s wait for a homegrown winner at the US Open

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Ben Shelton could be the man to end America’s wait for a homegrown winner at the US Open

  • The world No. 47 has become a cult favorite since the beginning of the US Open
  • The 20-year-old from Atlanta will face fellow American Frances Tiafoe in the QF 
  • DailyMail.com provides all the latest international sports news 

Ben Shelton uses the language of boxing when describing the turbo charged serve that has helped power him into the quarter finals of the US Open.

‘Everybody has a game plan until they get punched in the mouth,’ declared the 20 year-old American, who finds himself as one of three players from the host nation in the last eight.

Shelton has been clocked serving at 149 mph this fortnight, and it is the raw capability of his remarkably loose arm that has observers purring at this potential.

Once again thoughts are being excited that the US could be on the verge of discovering a long-awaited male Grand Slam champion as successor to Andy Roddick, the Flushing Meadows champion in 2003.

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The three home survivors are clustered in the bottom half of the draw, although – unfortunately for them Novak Djokovic – is the other who remains. Tomorrow Shelton faces compatriot Frances Tiafoe while ninth seed Taylor Fritz is next up against the great Serbian.

American Ben Shelton has shown what a bright future could lie ahead for the Atlanta native

American Ben Shelton has shown what a bright future could lie ahead for the Atlanta native

The 20-year-old has impressed on his run to the quarterfinals at this year's tournament

The 20-year-old has impressed on his run to the quarterfinals at this year’s tournament  

This year might have come too early for Shelton, but John McEnroe is among those who sees a golden future for him as a potential long-term threat to Carlos Alcaraz.

‘The serve is amazing,’ McEnroe told Eurosport. ‘He’s a great kid, he looks to be in really good shape. He’s finally come around, he’s doing his thing.

‘He got a little cocky here when he saw the 149mph, but I would be too. This guy has got more upside than any other American I believe. I thought that in Australia (back in January). He’s had some growing pains. But I tell you what, this guy is going to be the real deal.’

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Shelton arrived in Melbourne as a virtual unknown but made the quarter finals in what was his first Grand Slam. Aside from anything, a highly unusual aspect of his progress there was that it was his first ever trip outside the United States, unique among young players in a sport where developmental growth normally requires much international travel.

Also strange was that, until he turned up in New York, he subsequently failed to string together two consecutive victories on the tour, meaning that his world ranking is a relatively modest 47.

Still settling in to his first year on the circuit, he does not yet appear burdened with the expectations inevitably placed upon him and other Americans.

The US has become like its fellow Grand Slam power France, at least on the men’s side, in that it has been able to produce a high volume of good players without unearthing an exceptional champion (it has tended to be more the opposite way round with Great Britain).

For example the French had 17 males in the singles main draw, but all are gone. Remarkably, given their numbers, this season not one Frenchman has made it past the third round of a Major.

The 20-year-old is one half of the All-American quarter-final vs. Frances Tiafoe on Tuesday

The 20-year-old is one half of the All-American quarter-final vs. Frances Tiafoe on Tuesday

America’s problems are not quite that acute and now hopes rest with three players, all of whom have strong, if differing, family connections with tennis.

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Shelton’s father is former ATP player Bryan, who reached 55 in the world is now head coach at the University of Florida. Fritz’s mother, Kathy May, made the last eight at both Wimbledon and New York in the late Seventies. Tiafoe’s father emigrated from Sierra Leone and became the janitor at a tennis club in Maryland, which is where his son learned the game.

They are three of the seven Americans ranked in the world’s top fifty, but if any of them are going to make a serious breakthrough this week someone will have to shift Djokovic. The fact that Fritz is 0-7 in career meetings against the 36 year-old Serbian suggests that it will not be him.

Despite that Shelton retains a youthful optimism: ‘American tennis is going in a great direction and I don’t know who’s going to be the next to get a Slam, be the next Andy Roddick,’ he said. ‘But I know we’re all on our own path and we’re all doing things our own way and improving year to year. I can see it in these guys and hopefully see the same kind of trend with myself.

‘I’m not really too worried about what happens from here on. It’s pretty cool to know that at least one American is going to be in the semifinals here.’



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