Who is Ben Shelton? He’s playing Novak Djokovic in U.S. Open semis

Ben Shelton is dialed in.

Anyone who has been watching the unseeded American’s run at the U.S. Open can tell you that.

But just in case you haven’t been keeping up, the 20-year-old Shelton delivered the message loud and clear following his quarterfinal victory over fellow U.S. player Frances Tiafoe on Monday at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

It was the first Grand Slam quarterfinal between two Black American men since the Open era began in 1968.

Immediately after earning match point to seal the 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2 victory, Shelton pantomimed answering an old-school telephone, then slamming it down to indicate the conversation was over.

“It’s kind of like I’m saying I’m dialed in,” Shelton told reporters.

Shelton said his meme-worthy celebration is actually a signature move of fellow former University of Florida athlete Grant Holloway, who last month won his third straight world title in the 110-meter hurdles.

“He just won the world championships so congrats to him, give him a little shout out when I do this,” Shelton said while lifting his hand back to his ear telephone-style, “and something that connects me to my friends back home.”

The 10th-seeded Tiafoe said afterward he appreciated being part of such a significant match — he just wishes the outcome had been different.

“It’s great with two people of color going at it. Obviously a historic moment,” said Tiafoe, 25, who made the semifinals at last year’s U.S. Open. “But ultimately, once you get out there, you just want to win.”

The match was also the first U.S. Open men’s quarterfinal since 2005 in which both participants were from the host country. A male U.S. player hasn’t won a Grand Slam since Andy Roddick did so at Flushing Meadows in 2003. Also, Shelton and Coco Gauff are the first two U.S. players to reach the semifinals of the same Grand Slam event since Serena and Venus Williams did so at Wimbledon in 2000.

Shelton was born in Atlanta into a family in which everyone seemingly plays tennis. His sister Emma Shelton was a college player at South Carolina and Florida. His mother, Lisa Witsken Shelton, is an accomplished player at the junior level. His uncle Todd Witsken was a professional player who advanced to Australian Open quarterfinals in 1988.

His father, Bryan Shelton, also played professionally, taking part in multiple Grand Slam events before retiring as a player. He coached the Georgia Tech women’s tennis team to the national title in 2007 and became the men’s coach at Florida in 2012. His Gators won the national championship in 2021, with freshman Ben as their No. 5 singles player.

Ben Shelton went on to become the NCAA men’s singles champion the following year. His father stepped down at Florida in June and now serves as his son’s full-time coach.

“I’m really excited being able to travel with him and have him as my coach everywhere I go,” Ben Shelton said in an interview before playing at Wimbledon in July. “I think that we work really well together and I think that he does a really good job in helping me maximize the talents that I have.”

Next up for Shelton: Novak Djokovic in Friday’s semifinals.

“He’s won maybe 23 of these? Something like that?” Shelton correctly said of Djokovic’s record number of Grand Slam wins. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”

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