Tommy Paul beats Ben Shelton in all-American clash to reach Australian Open semifinals
Tommy Paul defeated compatriot Ben Shelton in a hard-fought match at the Australian Open to reach the first grand slam semifinal of his career.
Few expected any of these men to reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne, but Paul’s experience showed that he won 7-6 6-3 5-7 6-4 to set up a semi-final against either nine-time winners. Novak Djokovic or world no. 6 Andrew Roelev.
Paul, currently No. 35 in the world, is now guaranteed to climb into the top 20 in the world for the first time in his career, becoming the first American man to reach the last four of the Australian Open since Andy Roddick in 2009.
“This is my first time on this track [Rod Laver Arena], my first in the quarterfinals of a slam,” said 25-year-old Paul after the game. “It’s also Ben Shelton’s first time leaving the United States, so I think he’s had a pretty good tournament as well.
“Making it to the second weekend of a slam is everyone’s dream when they start playing tennis, so I can’t believe I’m here now.”
Shelton has been the revelation of this Australian Open.
The great southpaw has played in just the second grand slam of his career – the first coming at the US Open in late 2022 – and before traveling to New Zealand and Australia in preparation for the first grand slam of the year, he had never even been outside the US.
The 20-year-old currently holds a career-high ranking – number 89 in the world – and his performance so far in Australia means he will now be in the top 50 in the world on Monday.
Shelton gave a good picture of himself in Wednesday’s match, fighting back from a slump to take the third set when it looked like Paul would walk away with a straight set win.
Shelton also shot down 24 aces during the match, the fastest a high speed of 220 km/h, and 42 winners. However, it was the lack of consistency and unforced errors – 50 compared to Paul’s 26 – that helped his opponent to victory.
With compatriot Sebastian Korda also reached the quarterfinals in Melbourne, it was the first time since 2000 – when Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Chris Woodruff reached the last eight – that three American players reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.
The 2023 season already looked promising for US tennis – with Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff leading the way – but the emergence of Paul and Shelton as contenders to go deep in grand slams only makes it more exciting.