Ben Shelton, a rare American prodigy, etched his name into tennis history last week. He became the youngest Tokyo Open champion since the legendary Lleyton Hewitt in 2001, at the age of just 20. But that’s not all; in September, Shelton made history by becoming the youngest American male to reach the semifinals of the US Open in New York. He was ranked 173rd in the world at this time last year, but in the current ATP rankings revealed this week, he has risen all the way to 15th.
In an exclusive interview with an Italian daily, Shelton dropped a bombshell – he’s been stealing some tennis secrets from the sport’s legendary Big Three, and his favorite source of inspiration is none other than the Swiss maestro, Roger Federer.
Ben Shelton on Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal
During an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, Ben Shelton revealed who interests him more among the Big Three. The Big Three have won 66 Grand Slams in total and have remained formidable legends in the history of tennis.
“I studied Nadal and tried to steal some secrets from him,” Ben Shelton, who is also left-handed like Nadal. “But my favorite has always been Roger. Novak Djokovic? In three years he will still be a top five, and he will still win tournaments,” Ben Shelton said.
The 20-year-old American star praised Jannik Sinner, after the Italian beat Shelton in the Round of 32 of the Vienna Open. “He is only a year older than me and has achieved a lot. He leads a fantastic generation of young Italians and is among the top five of the next few years,” Ben Shelton explained.
The United States contingents on the ATP Tour, consisting of the top 20 players in the world rankings, include Ben Shelton, Taylor Fritz, Tommy Paul, and Frances Tiafoe. Ben Shelton believes he will represent his country at major events over the next few years, following in his father’s footsteps. His father, Bryan Shelton, won two ATP Tour singles titles in his career.
“We are many and strong,” he said. “Personally, I aim to lead my country first in the Davis Cup and next season at the Olympics. My favourite American tennis player has always been my father. If I have to go beyond the family circle, then I say Andy Roddick.”
Ben Shelton speaks on Novak Djokovic
Ben Shelton revealed that he is making serious preparations for the Paris Masters after winning the Tokyo Open earlier this month. He also mentioned that Djokovic is likely to continue winning titles.
“In three years he will still be top 5 winning tournaments,” Shelton said.
In the US Open semifinals, Ben Shelton fell to a defeat to Novak Djokovic and the Serbian star did Shelton’s famous hang sailing style which caused mixed reactions on social media.
When later asked about it, Ben Shelton said, “I don’t like when I’m on social media & I see people telling me how I can celebrate or cant celebrate,” he said. “If you win the match you deserve to do whatever you want. As a kid I always learned that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
“For me, it’s kind of like I’m saying I’m dialed in,” Shelton said. That’s what it is for me. I’m really close friends with a lot of track & field athletes who train at the University of Florida. One in particular, Grant Holloway, who’s won the World Championships like 3 years in a row now, that’s kind of his signature thing. He just won the world championships, so congrats to him.”
Ben Shelton has been in remarkable form and despite his loss to Jannik Sinner at the Vienna Open, fans and tennis lovers hope he takes the form into the Paris Masters and ATP Finals in Turin.