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Wimbledon: Shelton Survives Shapovalov

Jul 7th 2024

In a match that started yesterday on No. 3 Court and finished today under the roof on No. 1 Court, American Ben Shelton, the 14th seed, survived Canadian Denis Shapovalov 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 to reach the fourth round of Wimbledon.

This is Shelton’s third consecutive five-set victory at The Championships.

Thirty years ago, Bryan Shelton, his father and coach, also made the fourth round.

Bryan Shelton is a former professional player and former coach at the University of Florida (where his son played two seasons). He reached a career-high ranking of world No. 55.

Ben Shelton’s best Grand Slam result is reaching the semifinals at the 2023 US Open (losing to Novak Djokovic). At age 20, he became the youngest American man to reach the semifinals at the US Open since Michael Chang in 1992.


Shapovalov, whose highest ranking was world No. 10, reached the semifinals of Wimbledon in 2021. Last year, he reached the round of 16. He won the Wimbledon boys’ singles title in 2016.

This was the first meeting for the two left-handers, who play similarly. They both have a gung-ho, all-or-nothing kind of game that works well on grass. They are aggressive, they go for it.

They have big lefty serves that can skid through the grass. For the match, Shelton struck seven aces and only four double faults, while Shapovalov struck six aces and struggled with 13 double faults.

They have good volleys, though Shelton’s are better. He won 52 of 78 (67%) points at the net, while Shapovalov won 21 of 40 (53%).

The biggest difference between the pair is that Shapovalov has a one-handed backhand with a full-flowing swing, while Shelton has a two-handed backhand that is straight and compact. Shelton can bunt it more on the return, which is especially helpful when being jammed on a lefty body serve that curves into a lefty’s backhand.

In his on-court interview, Shelton said, “We’re back, big dog,” to his father, having matched his feat of reaching the fourth round.

In his press conference, Shelton added: “Yeah, pretty cool. I think a lot more impressive that he was able to do it back in the day, beating the No. 2 player in the world [Michael Stich] as 50-something in the world.

But, yeah, really happy that we get to kind of share this moment together again. Not again, but together for the first time.

Yeah, I’m just looking forward to this next match. You know, we’ve been working really well together on the court. I think that with the new coaching rule, I think that the information that he’s able to give me during the match, he can help keep me in the right state of mind. Yeah, I’ve really enjoyed the kind of back and forth that we've been able to have during the matches.”

Shelton’s fastest serve ever is 149 mph, but he said he’d been focusing on trying not to hit big serves during the tournament. “I think that three out of five sets playing a lot of matches, you want to try to save your arm as much as possible. My off-pace serves have been working really well, so I’ve been trying to mix it up and change it up.

I think it’s important every once in a while to speed it up and show the guy that I can hit the serve that’s big, so you do have to respect it and be ready for it.

You know, I know that I have that in my arsenal and I know that I have bigger serves than that also. But yeah, I kind of just have been trying to mix things up while I’m out there.”

Shelton said that there were a lot of things he appreciates about playing five sets. “The amount of time you are out there on the court. It’s a physical test. You have to be ready to go the distance, and you have to be fit and in shape.

There’s also a lot of time for guys to make adjustments, so you can’t just really blow a guy off the court in one way. Most of the time you have to be able to figure things out and make your own adjustments when the guy makes changes and starts figuring it out.

Today Shapo started doing a really good job in the fourth set of returning my serve, finding a way to neutralize, so I had to change it up. In the fifth set, I served almost every serve into the body and serve and volleyed.

I think that’s the part that I like the most about it: the game within the game.”

Next up for Shelton is world No. 1 Jannik Sinner. The Italian had the day off today, and Shelton said: “Obviously a day off is better than playing five sets the day before you play three out of five. I was telling my coaches that physically after this match today, it’s the best that I’ve felt in the last two or three months.

I’ve been dealing with a lot of stuff on and off, and a lot of those issues have kind of subdued. So, I’m really happy with where my body is at right now. Yeah, I’m 100% ready to go the distance. If it happens to go five sets again tomorrow, I’ll be ready to go the whole way.”