Ben Shelton reflects on matching Arthur Ashe's accomplishment at Australian Open
Ben Shelton captivated tennis fans in the U.S. and beyond with a run to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open last month in his tournament debut. But did you know that, in doing so, the 20-year-old achieved something that hadn’t been done in nearly 60 years since the late, great Arthur Ashe?
In just his second Grand Slam main-draw appearance, Shelton became the first reigning NCAA men’s singles champion to make the last eight of the next year’s Australian Open since Ashe in 1966. Shelton was also a part of Florida's NCAA team championship in his freshman year in 2021.
Visiting the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla. last week to watch his University of Florida Gators defeat the Florida State University Seminoles in a riveting College MatchDay encounter, Shelton reflected on the accomplishment. Twelve months ago, Shelton was still competing for his father Bryan Shelton's Gators, but made the decision to turn professional last summer ahead of the US Open.
“It’s pretty crazy to think about,” he said. “I didn’t believe it until I looked it up.”
Grinning, he added: “To be able to follow in his footsteps, I think that’s a pretty good guy to be following. Hopefully, I can follow in his footsteps in a few other categories as well.”
With four wins, Shelton became the youngest U.S. man to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal since Andy Roddick in 2001, and he learned much about himself along the way. He saved a match point in his first-round win, and also came from two-sets-to-one down in his Round 4 win against fellow American J.J. Wolf.
"I've learned that I have the ability to be really tough on the court, to stay tough for five sets," Shelton said after losing to fellow American Tommy Paul in the Australian Open quarterfinals "I've kind of proven to myself that I can hang with a lot of people for extended periods of time out on the court.
"I'm taking that as a huge positive, not just my tennis level but my mentality out on the court, the level that I was able to compete at, and maintain it through the week."
Arriving at the Australian Open (his trip to New Zealand and Australia to start the season marked Shelton's first time traveling outside the U.S.) ranked No. 89, he soared into the world’s Top 50 as a result.