Ben Shelton — 2021 UTR Pro Tennis Tour finalist, 2022 NCAA champion, and 2023 US Open semifinalist.
Shelton (UTR Rating 15.68) has made history in New York by becoming the youngest American male to reach the US Open semifinals since Michael Chang in 1992.
Unseeded, the 20-year-old has beaten the likes of Pedro Cachin, Dominic Thiem, Aslan Karatsev, Tommy Paul, and, on Tuesday night, Frances Tiafoe. He’ll face Novak Djokovic for a place in the final.
“It doesn’t get much better than that,” Shelton said on court after his four-set win over Tiafoe. “It’s been tough the last two matches, playing against Americans, but hopefully, you guys can bring it for me two days from now.”
After starting the year just inside of the ATP Top 100, Shelton is guaranteed a place inside the ATP Top 20 next week. Across the same time frame, his UTR Rating has jumped from 14.87 to 15.68.
It’s been a rapid rise for a young player who was still in college last year. During his freshman year, Shelton led the Florida Gators (coached by his dad, Bryan Shelton) to their first NCAA team title in 2021.
A few weeks later, the young American’s first taste of pro tennis came on the UTR Pro Tennis Tour (PTT). Launched at the start of 2021, the PTT helps aspiring pros achieve their dreams by providing events with guaranteed prize money and multiple matches each week.
Shelton competed at the PTT in Bradenton, Fla., at the start of June 2021, reaching the final. Less than two months later, he won his first ITF M25 title. He returned to campus in Gainesville for his sophomore college season, winning the NCAA singles championship in 2022.
He planned to return for his junior year but turned pro after stunning Casper Ruud in Cincinnati that summer. Though he didn’t win his main draw debut at the US Open a few weeks later, Shelton closed out his season with three ATP Challenger titles in a row.
At this year’s Australian Open, Shelton broke through in a big way by reaching the quarterfinals, ultimately losing to Paul. He then slogged through some early losses before returning to the ATP Challenger Tour. Another breakthrough was out of reach all hard-court summer season until this fortnight, where his giant serve and high energy have seen him through.
During his win over Paul last week, the lefty hit two 149mph serves in one game (the US Open record is 152mph, held by Andy Roddick). He leads the US Open with the most aces.
“Sometimes you have to shut out the brain, close your eyes, and just swing,” Shelton said on Tuesday.
Before he gets his chance to test his skills against Djokovic, Shelton will play alongside Taylor Townsend in the US Open mixed semifinals. Townsend returned to pro competition in March 2022 by competing on the UTR Pro Tennis Tour, winning the title in Bradenton.