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Ben Shelton wins another 5-setter to match Dad at Wimbledon: ‘We’re back, Big Dog!’

LONDON (AP) — When Ben Shelton was growing up, he didn’t necessarily want to hear a lot about his father’s professional tennis career. And, actually, Dad didn’t necessarily want to chat much about it.

Ben, though, knows what Bryan did all of those decades ago — and now they share something in common: a trip to the fourth round at Wimbledon.

The younger Shelton made it that far at the All England Club for the first time in only his second appearance, getting past another big-serving left-hander who has been a Grand Slam semifinalist, Denis Shapovalov, by a score of 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 on Saturday. The elder Shelton was among the last 16 men in the Wimbledon bracket in 1994.

Ben’s tennis coach at the University of Florida was Bryan, who left that job a little more than a year ago to work with his kid. So Bryan was sitting in the stands at No. 1 Court, offering tips and encouragement.

When the match ended, Ben shouted over, “We’re back, Big Dog!”

“He’s not really a guy who likes to talk about himself. So he didn’t really volunteer that information (about his career) when I was younger. And I was playing other sports and could care less about tennis and his playing days when I was younger. That’s not something we really talked about,” said Ben, a semifinalist at last year’s U.S. Open. “But within the last couple of years, when I came out here on tour, it’s more like advice, given the experience that he had, rather than him just story-telling.”

Smacking serves at up to 140 mph (225 kph), tied for the fastest by anyone in the tournament so far, he pulled out his third consecutive five-setter. The 14th-seeded Shelton is the first man to do that at Wimbledon since Ernests Gulbis; no one ever has won four matches in a row in five sets at any major event in the Open era, which began in 1968.

“So proud of what Ben is doing here at this very special place. Advancing to the 4th round 30 years ago was my greatest accomplishment, so not surprised Ben has already matched that. He is in a hurry to surpass me in all areas,” Bryan wrote in a text message to the AP. “Seriously, the way he is battling through these 5-setters is really the part we admire most. To see him smiling on court and having fun on this stage is what you hope for. Love to see him express his talents and his personality.”

Shelton, 21, insisted he’s not tired heading into what amounts to a tough task on Sunday, when he faces No. 1-ranked Jannik Sinner for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Sinner won his third-rounder Friday night; Shelton and Shapovalov only completed five games that day before rain led to a suspension of play and a resumption Saturday.

“I didn’t see much fatigue on his end. He looked good,” said Shapovalov, who reached the final four at Wimbledon in 2021.

There already have been 33 five-setters at Wimbledon, a record through three rounds at a major tournament.

Shapovalov chalked that up to there being talent spread around the tour and few grass-court experts. Shelton said he loves that matches can go that long.

“There’s a lot of things I appreciate about five sets. The amount of time you are out there on the court, it’s a physical test. You have to be ready to go the distance and you have to be fit and in shape,” he said. “There’s also a lot of time for guys to make adjustments, so you can’t just really blow a guy off the court in one way. Most of the time you have to be able to figure things out and make your own adjustments when the guy makes changes and starts figuring it out.”

There will be those sorts of challenges against Sinner.

But Shelton, with an ability to deliver various types of serves, including a hard-to-handle kick version, presents difficulties, too.

“I’m happy with where I’ve gotten so far,” he said, “but definitely not satisfied.”


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