Tommy Paul made respect the hierarchy. The 25-year-old American defeated his compatriot Ben Shelton in four sets (7-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4) in the quarterfinals on Wednesday to reach the last four of this 2023 edition. Paul, the logical winner of this match, will play his first Grand Slam semifinal next Friday. It will be against Novak Djokovic or Andrey Rublev.
Tommy Paul is finally a Grand Slam semifinalist. A great hope of American tennis during his transition from junior to professional circuit less than a decade ago, the New Jersey player has finally put it all together in a major tournament to go very far. Facing fellow American and tournament revelation Ben Shelton in the quarter-finals, Paul dominated this particular matchup in an authoritative manner. It took him four sets and 3 hours and 06 minutes of play on the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne to defeat the brilliant left-hander (7-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4). He awaits the winner of the final quarter between Novak Djokovic and Andrey Rublev.
The score did not exactly reflect the scenario of the match. Tommy Paul largely dominated this match and the loss of the third act was more of an accident than anything else. Despite all his good will and positive temperament, Shelton never shook the house, even when he went for the third set after a great effort. Proof that he didn’t have the match in his hands: he conceded an early break in the deciding set and could never get back on track. Paul never looked worried either. In fact, it was a good atmosphere on Rod Laver Arena. The mood was even good on the Rod Laver Arena, as evidenced by the moody sequence of Paul asking his coach where Shelton was going to serve in the final set. The coach lost the bet, which made both players laugh.
DAMNED BACKHAND ERROR
The last set was an exact copy of the third (at least for three quarters) and the second where Paul was the master of the proceedings. Stronger from the baseline to lead the rally, especially with his backhand, excellent at covering the court, and consistent on serve: the 25-year-old had sharpened all his weapons for this 100% American clash. His main success was to read Shelton’s powerful serve. Although he didn’t succeed 100% in the first set, he managed to get it right at the end of the tie-break and then put the game away.
Winning this first set was very important. It determined the fate of the match on a mental level. The two Americans were perfectly matched, solid behind their commitments, and offered a life-size chess game to the public of Rod Laver Arena. They were imperious until 6-6, 6-6 in the tiebreak. It was on this point played on Shelton’s serve that everything changed. The length found on the crosscourt forehand by Paul caused the kid to break on the backhand. A learning error of sorts. But a mistake that broke the legs and the head of the US prodigy. His last stand 1h30 later was more symbolic than anything else. We will see Ben Shelton again, that’s for sure. Paul can completely change the course of his career in two days.
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