Ben Shelton (Photo Getty Images)
Ben Shelton’s great success at the ATP 500 in Tokyo, his first title on the major tour, gave the 21-year-old from Atlanta an increase of four in the world rankings, which brought him to number 15, his best ranking. Huge progress for Ben, who only turned pro 15 months ago and played his first professional tournament outside the US at the last Australian Open. Ups and downs in his first ever full season around the world, but the semi-finals at the US Open and the quarter-finals in Melbourne are notable results achieved especially at the Slams, the most competitive and important tournaments. Yesterday’s victory in Japan at an ATP 500 certifies his entry into the elite of international tennis with almost endless growth potential.
Shelton’s rise in the rankings brings the number of U.S. players in the world’s top 15 to 4, along with Taylor Fritz (No. 9), Tommy Paul (12) and Frances Tiafoe (14). It is a curious fact, but of modest importance. In fact, it hasn’t happened since 1997 that four U.S. players have been this high in the rankings together. Back then, Pete Sampras, Michael Chang, Todd Martin and Andre Agassi were the standard bearers of Stars and Stripes tennis.
At the beginning of this season, there were five Americans in the top 15, including Jim Courier at No. 15 and most notably Pete at No. 1, Michael at No. 2, Andre at No. 8 and Todd at No. 12; Then “Big Jim” and later “Las Vegas Kid” lost positions and left the top 15.
It’s fair to say that the quality of U.S. players 26 years ago was significantly superior to that of the best U.S. tennis players today. After all, when we remember Sampras and Co. we are talking about 23 Slam titles and many more won by a poker with epochal stars, probably an unrepeatable era in terms of quality and quantity, but the American fans have a number excellent player found, and that I hope to see a Slam champion again. Sebastian Korda has tennis in his hands to climb many places in the rankings and get close to the best, and on a quantitative level there are currently 9 US players in the top 100, with an average age of 25 years. US tennis hasn’t been doing so well for many years.