Ben Shelton Masters a Tricky Fifth Set at the Australian Open. Holger Rune Does Not.
He has hired Daniel Pohl, the German fitness trainer who has worked with Naomi Osaka. Shelton was smart on Monday: toning down his natural exuberance early against Wolf to save fuel; dominating the fourth-set tiebreaker; jumping out to a quick lead in the fifth set; and then building on it to win, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-2.
The 2023 Australian Open
The year’s first Grand Slam event runs from Jan. 16 to Jan. 29 in Melbourne.
Wolf, 24, never broke Shelton’s serve in five sets, getting only two break points. Now Shelton will play in another all-American match against Tommy Paul, 25, in the first Grand Slam quarterfinal for both. Paul, already an established threat on the tour with victories over Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz, advanced with a victory, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, over the No. 24 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain.
With Sebastian Korda already in the quarterfinals, there are three American men among the final eight in Australia for the first time since 2000 when Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and the much lesser-known Chris Woodruff reached that stage.
Shelton, who won the 2022 Division I men’s singles championship at the University of Florida and then turned professional that August, has had a fine draw here, facing no opponents ranked in the top 50. His returns need lots of work but after saving a match point in the first round against Zhang Zhizhen of China, he has continued to rise to the occasion, embracing the matches and the post-match interviews with the same enthusiasm.
In only his second major tournament, Shelton has gone one round farther than his father and coach, Bryan Shelton, whose best Grand Slam run was to the fourth round at Wimbledon in 1994. He will also pass his father’s best career ranking of 55, breaking into the top 50 next week.
“I try not to think about that at all,” Ben Shelton said of the comparison. “My dad’s the reason I’m here. I wouldn’t be here without him. They say you do better on your second try, and I think the way he coaches and explains the game to me and all the life experiences he’s given me, and my mom as well, are pretty much the sole reason I’m in the position I’m in.”