American Ben Shelton continued his dream run at the Australian Open Monday when he overcame countryman J.J. Wolf 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne.

In a thrilling clash full of power hitting, the 20-year-old fired 64 winners and saved both break points he faced to earn the biggest win of his career after three hours, 51 minutes.

“It has been a dream so far,” Shelton said after a second straight win in John Cain Arena. “Thank you to everyone who came out today, you guys are the best.

“It was a gruelling match. There were a lot of swings throughout the match, going to me and then him. I was focused on being energetic, trusting my fitness and hustling. I was courageous and I think I did a good job of competing at the highest level in the fifth set.”

[ATP APP]

Both former college stars — Shelton at the University of Florida from 2021-22 and Wolf at Ohio State from 2017-19 — the two young Americans built their games around big serves and booming forehands, both winning at least 80 per cent of their first-serve points. The difference came on second serve, where the heavy action of Shelton’s lefty delivery helped him win 69 per cent of points to his opponent’s 53 per cent.

Wolf was ice cool in the match’s first two tie-breaks, taking advantage of a late error from Shelton in both. But Shelton jumped out to a 6/2 lead in the fourth-set tie-break before closing it out on his third set point.

At his electric best in the final set, Shelton used his third break of the match — with a lightning love hold either side of it — to build a 3-0 lead. While he was pushed to deuce in a tense game as he served for a 5-2 lead, the American powered through the finish line by claiming the fourth of his nine break points.

@BenShelton‘s time is right now!”

He’d never been outside of the United States, now he’s a Grand Slam quarterfinalist!

The 20-year-old sees off countryman JJ Wolf 6-7(5) 6-2 6-7(4) 7-6(4) 6-2

Sport, eh… how good is it.#AusOpen#AO2023 pic.twitter.com/7CKAQeBApv

— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 23, 2023

One year ago, Shelton was No. 569 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and still in college, playing for the Florida Gators under his father, head coach and former pro Bryan Shelton. The lefty was not yet in the top spot of his team’s lineup.

Now he is up to No. 43 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, having rocketed up 46 places behind his quarter-final run. Shelton is making just his second appearance at a major, after debuting at the 2022 US Open as a wild card that he earned by winning the NCAA singles title. 

Wolf is also set to leave Melbourne in the Top 50 for the first time, having moved up 20 spots to No. 47 with his career-best major run.

Shelton will aim to continue his fairytale run when he takes on Tommy Paul or Roberto Bautista Agut. With Shelton joining countryman Sebastian Korda in the quarter-finals, this marks the first time since 2007 that two American men have reached the last eight in Melbourne — and the first time at any Slam since the 2011 US Open. If Paul advances to make it three, it would be the first time a trio of Americans progressed to the quarters since 2000 in Melbourne and 2005 (US Open) at any major.

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