Gator men’s tennis coach enjoying son’s magical run at Australian Open

The former Gator tennis star just became the first American man to reach a quarterfinal before the age of 21 since 2003
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 5:35 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Former Gator and Bucholz tennis star, Ben Shelton is making history at the Australian Open.

He became the first American man to reach the quarterfinal of a major before the age of 21 since Andy Roddick in 2003.

Current Gator men’s tennis head coach, and Ben’s dad, Bryan, has been watching it unfold from the other side of the globe.

“It’s been a thrill,” said Bryan. “My wife, LIsa, and I, we’ve been staying up every night that he’s played and watched his matches. The last match that he played, we were so excited. It felt like date night for us.”

Shelton has been reluctant for his family to travel to Australia, saying Ben is doing just fine on his own.

However, he said he told his wife if Ben makes the final, she can go to Australia, but he’ll have to stay back and coach the Gators.

Ben won a team National Championship playing for his dad as a freshman at Florida, then brought home the men’s individual title his sophomore year.

Amazingly, his first year at Florida was actually supposed to be his senior year in high school.

“Everything he’s done since he’s come to come college, has just been on a fast track,” said Shelton about his son. “Every step of the way I’ve been surprised at how quickly he’s moved up.”

TV20′s Gator insider, Steve Russell, spoke about the possibility of the next face of American men’s tennis being a Gator.

“Some of the other major sports, by it’s standard, are struggling,” said Russell. “For example, who in the NFL really stands out as a Gator player? You know, is there a real superstar? There’s not. Well, here comes Ben Shelton. A new, young, fresh face who’s making the impact he’s making, that makes Gator nation proud, so it’s great to have that.”

“Shelton will face fellow American, Tommy Paul, in the quarterfinals. If he wins that match it could set up a dream semifinal with one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Novak Djokovic.”

“If he were to get through tonight and have the opportunity to play Djokovic,” said Shelton, “I mean that’s pretty special. But if not, it’s still been an amazing run, he’s far ahead and exceeded our expectations up until now. Everything is just gravy from here on out.”

And just to make this journey even more amazing--it’s Ben’s first time out of the United States!

His dad imagines it will not be his last.

“I certainly wouldn’t put a ceiling on this kid,” said Shelton. “I think he’s got some things that I certainly didn’t have as a player, and so you’re just not sure. It’s one of those things--Coach Perlman always says ‘this guy’s like Secretariat. We can’t put the reins on him, we just gotta let this guy run his race.’”

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