American tennis star Ben Shelton has broken a 31-year record at the US Open after defeating World No. 10 and fellow countryman Frances Tiafoe. The match saw Shelton progress to the semi-finals after a four-set thriller having been on the ATP Tour for less than a year.
Shelton impressed throughout the tie against Tiafoe and after four sets the youngster eventually won 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-2 which sets up a clash against world No. 2 Novak Djokovic next.
The quarter-final win saw him vastly improve on last year’s performance where he suffered a first round knock-out against Portugal’s Nuno Borges at Flushing Meadows.
While Shelton’s latest victory to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal was an impressive feat, he has also written his name into the history books. The victory sees him become the youngest American male to reach the US Open semi-finals since Michael Chang in 1992.
Reflecting on the result after the match Shelton admitted it was both a physical and mental battle to secure the win. “I think the mental has improved more than the physical,” he said in his post-match press conference.
“There’s plenty of times where I could have gone over to my box today and said, ‘Guys, I’m cooked. I’m tired. I don’t know if I can go anymore.’ Instead, I told myself, ‘I’m fine and he’s feeling it too.’ I think being able to flip it in your head is more than half the battle.
“I think I’ve definitely made some strides physically being out on tour a full year and playing a lot of matches and just being on the court more, working hard in the gym. My fitness levels have surely improved and I think all that together is kind of what happened today.”
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Shelton later admitted that he is relishing the chance to play against three-time US Open champion Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals. “It doesn’t get much better than that,” he admitted. “It’s been tough the last two matches, I’ve been playing Americans. But hopefully you guys bring it for me two nights from now?”
Djokovic has also returned the favour and spoke highly of his opponent ahead of the game. “It’s great that Ben Shelton, for example, a player that came from college tennis, is playing on the highest level, producing some amazing tennis,” he said.
“I think it’s a great message for all the players who want to go to college but then still keep on playing professionally. It proves that it is possible, which maybe up to 15, 20 years ago, it was completely different.”
The pair will next be in action on Friday at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
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