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Shelton Secures Second Round At The Australian Open

Jan 16th 2024

Shelton subdues RBA 6-2, 7-6, 7-5 down under

An intriguing first-round encounter at the Australian Open pit lefty against righty, NextGen vs veteran, and American vs Spanish. Ben Shelton from Atlanta, Georgia just twenty-one years old, reached a career-high ranking of #15 last October and is currently ranked and seeded sixteen.

Roberta Bautista Agut (RBA) fourteen years his senior, reached a career-high ranking of #9 in the fall of 2019 but due to a slew of injuries including one suffered last summer in a horse riding accident, is unseeded as a result of his current rank of #72.

Last season down under the American made headlines by reaching the quarters while the Spaniard reached that round in 2019. This was their first career meeting. RBA won the toss and chose to serve. He made an auspicious start with five first serves and an easy hold while Shelton struggled.

He opened with three consecutive errors and faced triple break point. The Spaniard was relentless, targeting the American’s forehand and extracting errors. Shelton faced five deuce points and two additional break points but held to level with an ace and three consecutive first serves.

RBA made 5/6 first serves and held to 30 for 2-1 while Shelton opened the fourth with a double fault. The NextGen superstar was clearly nervous as the errors and break points accrued but with three impressive winners, battled for the hold.

The Spaniard was 0/9 on break point opportunities and it proved pivotal as the set progressed. He opened the fifth with a netted backhand and with two more unforced errors dumped serve. Shelton struck four winners including his second ace and consolidated the break for 4-2.

RBA made 3/5 first serves but dropped serve following two forehand errors and three forehand winners from his opponent. Shelton serving with new balls, hit three winners including an ace out wide to clinch the set 6-2.

RBA served first in the second and despite donating two consecutive forehand errors, held to 30 while Shelton held to 15 with a fantastic inside-out forehand. RBA made 3/6 first serves and held to 30 for 2-1 while Shelton hit two consecutive aces and held at love.

The former world #9 gifted his first double fault and faced four deuce and break point yet managed to hold when Shelton mishit a return. The 16th seed opened the sixth with two consecutive forehand errors and with another faced break point and dropped serve.

RBA made three consecutive first serves but gave back the break with two consecutive errors and a blistering backhand down the line from Shelton.

The American hit four winners including his sixth ace on game point to consolidate the break while RBA serving with new balls, faced two deuce points but held for 5-4 with his first ace.

Shelton opened the 10

th with two consecutive forehand errors but with two winners leveled at 5-5. RBA missed four consecutive first serves, faced three deuce and break point, and dumped serve after missing wide with a forehand. Shelton served for a two-set lead but with three unforced errors and a fantastic forehand from his opponent, dropped serve to force the tiebreak.

The American struck three winners including an ace up the tee to lead 5-1 and with acute angles, slice, and depth off the ground, secured the tiebreak 7-2 with a forehand down the line.

The temperature had now reached 84 degrees in 1573 Arena. Shelton served first in the third and with three remarkable winners including his eighth ace, held to 30 while RBA donated his second double fault yet held to level.

The American gifted two unforced errors including his second double fault but held for 2-1 while RBA made 3/4 first serves and held at love with an incredible crosscourt forehand pass.

Shelton opened the fifth with a shanked forehand but with three consecutive winners including two aces, held to 15 for 3-2. The Spaniard made 4/6 first serves and held to 30 to level while Shelton hit two more aces and held at love for 4-3.

RBA opened the eighth with a spectacular inside-out forehand and with five consecutive first serves, held to 30 for 4-4. Shelton opened with an overcooked backhand but held for 5-4 with an outstanding crosscourt forehand and two additional aces.

RBA serving to stay in the match, made 4/5 first serves and with a well-struck forehand down the line, held to 15 to level while Shelton made 2/4 first serves and held to love for 6-5.

The Spaniard served to force the breaker and stay in the match but with three unforced errors faced match point and capitulated when he netted a volley.

While both littered the stats sheet with errors, Shelton hit 13 more winners (53/40) and held RBA to 16 (16/36). The American hit 14 aces, two double faults, and won 79% of first and 39% of second serve points while saving 9/11 break points and converting 5/6.

He was quite effective when returning, winning 43% of first and 52% of second serve return points. After a nervous start at the season’s first slam, he settled down and found his groove.

Next up, home favorite Chris O’Connell. The twenty-nine-year-old Sydney native is currently ranked #68 having achieved a career-high rank of #53 last September. This will be their first tour-level meeting with the third round on the line.