Shelton Backed To Qualify For ATP Finals In 2024 By Former World No. 1 Roddick

Shelton Backed To Qualify For ATP Finals In 2024 By Former World No. 1 Roddick

by Nurein Ahmed

If you've been watching this year's ATP Finals, you would easily notice the absence of American players in the eight-man cohort for the year-end championships.

Historically, the ATP Finals have not been a staple for the American men for over two decades. 14-time Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras remains the country's last winner, back in 1999. Former World No. 4 James Blake remains the last player to contest a final, back in 2006.

Taylor Frtiz qualified last year for the first time in his career and was knocked out in the semifinal stage. In spite of being one of the most dominant nations in the Top 50, with as many seven players, not a single one of them earned a ticket for this year's showpiece event.

Fritz looked like the closest player to qualifying again until an abdominal injury at a crucial juncture stopped him in his tracks. He missed the cut-off points by a very small margin. The situation is grimmer when you include the number of Americans who qualified for the ATP Finals since 2010.

In fact, they are countable by one hand. Andy Roddick (2010), Mardy Fish (2011), Jack Sock (2017), John Isner (2018), and Fritz last year, are the only American men who have played this event in the past 13 years. Ostensibly, it looks like U.S. men's tennis is back on the rise.

We've seen some major breakthroughs at Grand Slam level in the past couple of seasons. And it is not the veterans who are doing it, it is the upstarts. The average age of American men in the ATP Top 50 is 25 - what is generally considered the start of a tennis player's peak.

This belief is shared by former American greats Andy Roddick and Jim Courier who are willing to bet the house on at least one American player to play at next year's ATP Finals during the coverage of the tournament on Tennis Channel.

Courier, a runner-up at the ATP Finals in back-to-back seasons (1991 & 1992) admitted he would be "shocked" if no American man joined the fray next season and is tipping Australian Open quarterfinalist Sebastian Korda to do that provided he stays healthy.

"I'd be shocked, shocked I tell you if we don't have at least one American in this tournament next year. I'm not sure who it is going to be, whoever I don't say in my pick hopefully gets fired up and proves me wrong, but my feeling is it might be Sebastian Korda. It might be Sebi's time if he is healthy."

"He started off this season red hot in Australia and hurt his wrist and couldn't build on that momentum. Korda has a complete game, a man for all surfaces which matters too if you want to get into this tournament. You need consistent results. Could it be Sebi's time? Maybe. But it's just as well could be anyone else on this list too. Let's light a fire and get one there."

Roddick, who qualified for the year-end championships on six occasions, echoed Courier's sentiments and liked Korda's chances. But the 41-year-old picked Ben Shelton to grace the ATP Finals next year after an explosive first full season on the ATP Tour.

"Personally, If I have to choose one I think I would go with Ben Shelton. The guy is currently 17 in the world and has made runs in the Slams already and all the while, he's still figuring out how to play tennis. He only left the country for the first time in his life this year and it's only going to go up."


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