Ben Shelton is going to the semifinals of the U.S. Open after winning against fellow American tennis athlete Frances Tiafoe on Tuesday. The 20-year-old won 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2 in New York City’s sweltering heat and humidity.
“I’m feeling like I left it all out here tonight,” Shelton said in an on-court interview, according to The Guardian. “An emotional battle. Thanks to all you guys for staying so late. Hell of an atmosphere. And thanks for pushing me over the line.”
Shelton made history with this win. He became the youngest American man to go to the semifinals of the U.S. Open since 20-year-old Michael Chang in 1992. It also marks the third time a Black American man has reached the tournament’s semifinals since the beginning of the Open Era in 1968.
After the match, Shelton addressed the third set, a tiebreaker.
“Sometimes you’ve got to shut off the brain and close your eyes and just swing,” he said. “Maybe it was a little bit of that down set point, but it ended up working out. Some may say clutch, but I don’t know about all that.”
Shelton celebrated the win by picking up an imaginary phone and slamming it down.
“For me, it’s kind of like I’m saying I’m dialed in. That’s what it is for me,” he explained in a post-match press conference. “I’m really close friends with a lot of track and field athletes who train at the University of Florida. One in particular, Grant Holloway, who’s won the World Championships like three years in a row now… that’s kind of his signature thing. He just won the world championships, so congrats to him.”
Ben Shelton on his post-match phone celebration:
"For me, it's kind of like I'm saying I'm dialed in. That's what it is for me. I'm really close friends with a lot track & field athletes who train at the University of Florida. One in particular, Grant Holloway, who's won the… pic.twitter.com/xWnBO8jRvD
— The Tennis Letter (@TheTennisLetter) September 6, 2023
Tiafoe congratulated Shelton on the win.
“I thought it was super hot tonight, really muggy, super humid. Was sweating a lot, balls were really heavy,” he said, according to The Washington Post. “He was able to hit through the ball a bit more than I was. Yeah, he just played better than me. I gave him a lot of chances to stay in the match, and he took advantage of it. Hats off to him.”
The victory also helped Shelton reach the top 20 ranking. A year ago, the 20-year-old was ranked No. 165. Two years ago, he was at No. 802. For Shelton, who is the 2022 NCAA singles champion from the University of Florida, the match also marked his fifth appearance at a Grand Slam tournament.
Next Monday: Ben Shelton ranked at least No. 19
One year ago: Ranked No. 165
Two years ago: Ranked No. 802
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 6, 2023
Next up is the semifinal match against multi-champion Novak Djokovic on Friday.
“It doesn’t get much better than that,” Shelton said, according to The Guardian. “It’s been tough the last two matches; I’ve been playing Americans. But hopefully, you guys bring it for me two nights from now?”