Renowned tennis coach Eric Riley believes Ben Shelton has the chance to become the best player in the world someday because of the latter’s work ethic.
The American took the tennis world by storm at the US Open last season, where he won five main-draw matches to reach the semi-finals. He beat the likes of former World No. 3 Dominic Thiem, World No. 15 Tommy Paul, and 10th-seeded Frances Tiafoe before going down to eventual winner Novak Djokovic in straight sets.
Shelton then played three matches (one singles, two doubles) at the Laver Cup for Team World in September and reached the quarter-finals of the Shanghai Masters in October. Later that month, he won the ATP 500 event in Tokyo by beating Aslan Karatsev in straight sets in the final.
Riley believes Shelton’s willingness to keep working on his game instead of getting carried away by his newfound success gives the 21-year-old an edge over most of his rivals. The coach, who led the likes of Pam Shriver and Lisa Raymond to doubles Grand Slam success in the past, said on the Inside-In Tennis Channel podcast (00:12):
“Shelton has done a great job and he bounced back immediately and got an ATP tournament in Japan. That shows you right there he’s not home counting money, he’s not home basking in the sun. He won five matches in a Major and went and won a tournament after that.
“He’s got a chance to be the best player in the world because he is ready to go to work. Most of these guys, they get a good result, on the men’s or women’s side, they become fat cats”, Riley added.
Shelton ended the season on a poor note, marked by first-round exits at the Erste Bank Open and the ATP Masters 1000 in Paris.
A look at Ben Shelton’s start to the 2024 season
Ben Shelton has been pretty active in the first month and a half of the 2024 season. He started the year with a disappointing first-round exit in Brisbane at the hands of Roman Safiullin.
The American then beat Fabian Marozsan and Roberto Carballes Baena in the second and third rounds, respectively, to reach the semi-finals at the ATP 250 event in Auckland. However, Japan’s Taro Daniel bested him, 7-5, 7-6(9).
Shelton started his Australian Open campaign with a straight-sets win over Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut before beating Christopher O’Connell in four sets in the second round. He was then sent packing in the following round, where Adrian Mannarino got the best of him in a five-set thriller.
Shelton is currently in Dallas for the ATP 250 Dallas Open, where the World No. 16 is set to play a semi-final clash against compatriot Tommy Paul on Saturday (February 10).