Ben Shelton's monumental season reached dazzling new heights this past Sunday at the esteemed Kinoshita Group Japan Open Tennis Championships. The young American prodigy showcased his unwavering determination and skill as he overcame Aslan Karatsev with a score of 7-5, 6-1, marking his inaugural triumph at an ATP Tour title.
Shelton harnessed that hard-fought momentum to dominate the Tokyo finals by rebounding spectacularly from a set and 2-5 deficit in his semi-final clash against Marcos Giron. He expertly navigated the match, taking the ball early on return, effectively disrupting Karatsev's rhythm and leading him to victory in a swift 84 minutes.
Shelton expressed his remarkable achievement: "This victory is monumental for both myself and my dedicated team. We've been relentlessly working since day one to refine my game and clinch titles on the ATP Tour. Lately, I've made significant strides, and this is a testament to that.
You observe the game's legends; they don’t just reach finals—they secure titles. Maintaining such a high level of performance throughout an entire week is what they're known for. While I'm not placing myself on that pedestal just yet, managing to string together five consecutive match wins here in Tokyo is an achievement I hold close to my heart." With this victory, Shelton has etched his name as the sixth player this season to clinch their first tour-level title and the first since Lorenzo Musetti in 2022 in Hamburg to achieve this at a 500 event.
Come Monday, he is poised to ascend to a career-high No. 15 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, a significant leap from his starting rank of No. 96 at the season’s inception.
Shelton's Stellar Debut Triumph
“I'm brimming with anticipation for the remainder of the year," Shelton shared.
"The latter part of the season presents a golden opportunity, and I'm feeling remarkably fresh, given my low match count from earlier in the year. I'm fully committed to finishing the season on a high note." Shelton displayed remarkable poise and precision against Karatsev in his tour-level title debut.
The 21-year-old unleashed 18 winners and left Karatsev scrambling with his powerful lefty serve, winning an impressive 80% (32/40) of points behind his first serve. He now boasts a 2-0 lead in their Lexus ATP Head2Head series and follows in the footsteps of Taylor Fritz, marking the second consecutive American victory in Tokyo.
Reflecting on his season, Shelton’s journey has been nothing short of sensational. He made a significant impact at the Australian Open, reaching the quarter-finals. He then made history at the US Open, becoming the youngest American man to reach the semi-finals in New York since Michael Chang in 1992.
His record stands at an impressive 14-2 in his last 16 matches, further solidifying his status as a formidable contender on the tour. On the other end, Karatsev, aged 30, was in the pursuit of his fourth tour-level title and his first since his victory over Andy Murray in Sydney in 2022.
Despite a strong start with his forehand, consistency eluded him as the match progressed, resulting in 20 unforced errors.
Did You Know?
Ben Shelton has made history as the youngest Tokyo champion since Lleyton Hewitt, who clinched the title at 20 in 2001.
Moreover, he has joined the prestigious ranks alongside his father, Bryan Shelton, marking them as the fourth father-son duo to secure tour-level singles titles in the Open Era (since 1968).