Why Ben Shelton Can Break Top 10 Despite Early Australian Open Exit

Why Ben Shelton Can Break Top 10 Despite Early Australian Open Exit

by Nurein Ahmed

Ben Shelton was recently prevented from setting up a blockbuster fourth-round match against Novak Djokovic at the 2024 Australian Open.

A five-set defeat to the in-form Adrian Mannarino also stopped Shelton from moving further in the rankings. However, failure to defend quarterfinal points from last year's Australian Open is unlikely to affect Shelton's Top 20 status.

The 21-year-old American is among the most exciting young talents on the men's tour and has rocketed in the rankings for the past 18 months. Shelton's incredible run at the end of 2022 certainly drew the world's attention after he three-peated Challenger titles in three tournaments.

A few months earlier that season, Shelton scored a maiden Top 10 win at the Cincinnati Masters (defeated Casper Ruud) en route to the Round of 16 and, shortly after, decided to turn pro, forgoing his return to Gainesville to play another junior season.

That decision has proved fruitful because Shelton's first full season on the main tour was a revelation. He reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and the semifinal of the US Open. At the start of January 2023, Shelton was ranked 96th but finished in the world's Top 20.

Last season also saw him bag a first ATP title at the Japan Open, following the footsteps of his father, Bryan, in topping the podium at the Tour level. The Sheltons are just the fourth pair of father and son to win ATP titles on the ATP Tour.

The start to 2024 has not gone to plan so far, like losing to Taro Daniel in the semifinal of the ASB Classic in Auckland, where he was the top seed; Shelton has a lot to gain in the coming months. In fact, between February and late August, Shelton doesn't defend a lot of points.

Last season, he didn't advance beyond the second round at any ATP event during the aforementioned period, which means Shelton could virtually be a Top 10 player within a few months.

He is slated to play the ATP 250 event in Dallas at the start of February, where he is the second seed and will be a favorite to win the tournament. It could be where Shelton kickstarts his march to become a Top 10 player, and unlike those near him, he has the best chance to achieve that milestone.


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