MELBOURNE, Australia – The next stop on Ben Shelton’s first tour outside the United States will be the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.
The 20-year-old NCAA champion from the University of Florida extended his tenure at Melbourne Park with a 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4 ), a 6-2 win over JJ Wolf in an all-American match at John Cain Arena on Monday.
Shelton is playing in his second Grand Slam tournament – and using his passport for the first time – and came across as “strong” and “courageous” over the 3 1/2 hours he and Wolf traded large fines. and the rate changes on the day the temperature rises above 80 degrees Celsius (25 degrees Celsius).
89th-ranked Shelton now meets another undiscovered American, 35th-ranked Tommy Paul, who eliminated No. 24 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 on Monday.
They join Sebastian Korda — whose father won the 1998 Australian Open — to give the US three men in the quarterfinals in Melbourne for the first time since 2000. Back then, the trio was Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Chris Woodruff.
Shelton, Paul and Korda are all in the last eight for the first time. Not so, of course, for Novak Djokovic, the 21-time Grand Slam champion who looked unsteady during a 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 win over No. 22 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia and announced that his left hamstring is no longer a problem.
“I didn’t feel anything today,” said Djokovic, noting that he had been taking “a lot of pills” to prevent inflammation.
Djokovic, who was unable to play at the Australian Open last year because he had not been vaccinated against COVID-19, edged closer to an extended 10th tournament in Melbourne by not facing a break point and claim half of de Minaur’s service games.
Djokovic advances to a matchup against the No. 5 Andrey Rublev. The Russian kept coming back, coming back, coming back – from down 5-2 in the fifth set, from facing two match points while trailing 6-5, from 5-0 and 7-2 deficits in the game. first tiebreaker to 10 — before finishing off No. 9 Holger Rune 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (11-9) Rod Laver Arena.
Rublev won it when his backhand from the net line, and after a while, reached the Rune side of the court, impossible to reach. Rublev fell on his back at first and raised both hands as if to say, “I’m sorry!” — or maybe “I’m sorry. I’m not sorry!” — as Rune threw away his racket as well.
“I’m speechless, man. I’m shaking,” said Rublev, who is 0-6 in Grand Slam quarterfinals for his career. “The ball was right in my direction and I don’t know how (it) went.”
The left-handed Shelton will be armed with a powerful serve that produced the tournament’s fastest offering to date, at 142 mph (228 kph) during his first win, defensive performance and speed. of competition. Against Wolf, who played college tennis at Ohio State and was playing at a major in Melbourne for the first time, Shelton faced just two break points and saved both.
At times quiet as the day progressed, Shelton grew louder and more animated as the shadows crept across the blue field and the details added intensity.
He would throw uppercuts and yell, “Come on!” or “Let’s go!” after winning the points, and as the close contest came to an end, Shelton stuck out his tongue and folded his arms.
“It’s definitely a tough game,” said Shelton, whose father, Bryan, reached a career-best No. 55 as a professional and now coaches the men’s team in Florida.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.