American Ben Shelton placed on a masterclass in powerhouse hitting to down native favorite Alexei Popyrin 6-3 7-6(4) 6-4 within the Australian Open on Saturday to maneuver into the final 16 of a Grand Slam for the primary time in his profession.
Shelton had by no means travelled on Tour exterior america till this 12 months and barely turned heads within the warm-up tournaments in Adelaide and Auckland earlier than bursting onto the scene in Melbourne.
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The 20-year-old was just about unstoppable on function he slammed the door shut on each alternative Popyrin needed to break whereas the American additionally fired 34 winners in entrance of a partisan crowd that had hoped to see one other Australian advance. “I do know I got here from faculty tennis and I actually thought it was rowdy there, however this stadium is one thing particular,” a grinning Shelton mentioned.
“I do know that you simply guys had been going on your hometown boy at present and I did not have a lot of the crowd on my aspect,” he added, even because the followers roared their approval.
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray had been in motion on the similar time on Rod Laver Area and Margaret Courtroom Area however the John Cain Area nonetheless had a wholesome turnout after a serving to hand from Alex de Minaur, who had urged the locals to get behind ‘Popeye’. “Us Aussies, we stick collectively,” De Minaur had mentioned in a post-match interview after the house followers watched him beat Benjamin Bonzi at Rod Laver Area.
A vibrant crowd bought in on the act, even making an attempt a Mexican wave at one level, however they had been rapidly subdued when Shelton broke halfway by means of the opening set because the American’s celebratory scream echoed across the area.
The followers discovered their voice once more within the second set when Popyrin took it to a tiebreak however Shelton was undeterred, silencing them once more with each his firepower and finesse, closing out the set with one other roar. They might solely look on in dismay as Popyrin quickly misplaced his vary and his unforced error rely climbed, gifting Shelton the benefit earlier than discovering the online on match level to offer the younger American the win in precisely two hours.
A 12 months in the past, Shelton was ranked 570 however has now climbed into the highest 100 and will even break into the highest 50 with a deep run on the event – an outstanding achievement for somebody who didn’t need to play tennis till he was a young person. “For the primary 12 or 13 years of my life, I swore that I’d by no means play tennis. That was my dad’s factor and I used to be going to let him have it,” he mentioned, referring to his father Bryan who reached a career-high rating of 55 within the Nineties.
“However yeah, I form of fell in love with the game and right here we’re. So hopefully I could make a profession out of it.”