Tennis great John McEnroe has described US Open star Ben Shelton as the “real deal” and believes he has got “more upside than any other American.”
The seven-time Grand Slam singles champion also declared that the quarter-final clash between Shelton and Frances Tiafoe is “great for American tennis.”
Shelton has reached the last eight of the 2023 US Open following victories over Pedro Cachin, Dominic Thiem, Aslan Karatsev and Tommy Paul. The 20-year-old will face compatriot Tiafoe, a semi-finalist at last year’s US Open, in his second career major quarter-final.
Having reached the last eight at the Australian Open in January, Shelton did not win back-to-back matches in any tour level event before arriving in New York.
The world No 47 was particularly impressive in his four-set fourth round win over countryman Paul, during which he fired two 149mph aces – the fastest serves of the event so far.
Following Shelton’s triumph over world No 14 Paul, four-time US Open champion McEnroe had high praise for the young star’s game and potential.
“The serve is amazing. He’s a great kid, he looks to be in really good shape. He’s finally come around, he’s doing his thing. He got a little cocky here when he saw the 149mph [serves]. I would be too. That would be what I normally do in kilometres!,” the American told Eurosport.
“This guy has got more upside than any other American, I believe. I thought that in Australia. He’s had some growing pains. But I tell you what, this guy is going to be the real deal.”
The former world No 1 also feels the match-up between Shelton and Tiafoe is significant for the sport in the country.
“It’s great for American tennis to see two African-Americans. It’s going to inspire a whole bunch of kids to go out there and play tennis. It’s going to be fantastic for our sport here in America,” added the 64-year-old.
After progressing to the quarter-finals, Shelton discussed the achievement of three American men reaching the last eight at Flushing Meadows.
“It’s a shame that two of us have to playing the quarter-finals. Maybe we could have had three in the semis. Yeah, I think it’s a really cool opportunity for American tennis. This is what you guys always talk to us about: who’s going to be the next Grand Slam champion? Who’s going to do it?,” said the 20-year-old in his press conference.
“I always have the same reply: American tennis is going in a great direction and I don’t know who’s going to be the next to get a Slam, be the next Andy Roddick, but I know we’re all on our own path and we’re all doing things our own way and improving year to year. I can see it in these guys. Hopefully see the same kind of trend with myself.”
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