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Ben Shelton Embraces the Clay of Paris

Posted by Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Tuesday May 28, 2024

American Ben Shelton earned his first major victory at Roland-Garros, joining teammates Tommy Paul, Frances Tiafoe, Brandon Nakashimi and Sebastian Korda in the second round (three Americans: Taylor Fritz, Alex Michelsen and Mackie McDonald (they are there on Tuesday) with a 3 -6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Frenchman Hugo Gaston on Day 2 at Roland-Garros.

Tennis Express

The 21-year-old entered the tournament with an 8-10 career record on the wall, but his second full season has shown him to be more adept on the face, as he improved to 7-3 this year in a much slower position. .

Shelton credits the decision to go to Europe a little later than last year as a catalyst for success.

The American, who won his first title in Houston in April, says his comfort level on clay is growing.

“I’m starting to like clay,” he said after his win over Gaston. “I got my first title in Houston, which made me very happy, I was able to get a title on American soil. It’s always good to win at home.”

The former Florida Gator was 2-7 on clay prior to 2024, and had lost his only match at Roland-Garros to Lorenzo Sonego in four sets.

Despite dropping three of his last four matches on clay before arriving in Paris, Shelton says he feels motivated and excited about the Parisian Slam.

“Yes, my second year here at Roland Garros I feel more comfortable,” he said. “I’m happy with my choice this year to stay in the US later and come to Europe later in the game. I don’t think I was 100 percent ready in those first few tournaments I played, but now I’m starting to feel really good and comfortable.

“I feel very tired when I came to the French Open last year, I started the swing in Estoril. I’m happy where I’m at right now and I’m excited to move forward. I have a lot left in the tank.”

Road to Week Two?

If he can win his second-round clash with Nishikori, a third-round clash with 21st-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime or German qualifier Henri Squire will follow. It’s a serviceable category for the American, who has already shown the ability to make a deep run at the majors by reaching the semifinals at the 2023 Australian and US Opens.

For now, he is happy to soak up the atmosphere in Paris as he celebrates his first win on terre battue.

“This was a very good situation, to be honest,” he said after Gaston was removed from the Court 14, known as the people’s court in Paris because of the open seats and the full support of the French players they received there. “It’s the first time I’ve come out to a tennis match and had a band play on my court, so I think that was pretty special.

“I love these moments. I enjoy these moments.”

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