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'We're back, big dog!': Shelton relishes Wimbledon family affair

Ben Shelton beat Denis Shapovalov at Wimbledon on Saturday (HENRY NICHOLLS)
Ben Shelton beat Denis Shapovalov at Wimbledon on Saturday (HENRY NICHOLLS)

Ben Shelton turned Wimbledon into a family affair on Saturday as the American emulated his father by reaching the last 16 at the All England Club.

Shelton beat Canada's Denis Shapovalov 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 as he moved into the fourth round of the grass-court Grand Slam for the first time.

The 21-year-old's gritty victory, with Roger Federer watching from the Court One stands, came 30 years after his father Bryan also advanced to the Wimbledon fourth round.

"We're back, big dog," the 14th seed told his dad during an on-court interview after defeating Shapovalov.

Back in 1994, Bryan Shelton stunned former Wimbledon champion Michael Stich in the first round before eventually being knocked out by Sweden's Christian Bergstrom.

Now Bryan has been able to share in Ben's success as his coach, watching from courtside as he dug deep to subdue the tenacious Shapovalov.

"It's really cool for us to be able to share this moment together. I don't know if we thought we would be in this position at this point in our lives, but really just grateful for everything that's happened so far," Ben Shelton said.

"We've been working really well together on the court. I think that with the new coaching rule, the information that he's able to give me during the match, he can help keep me in the right state of mind.

"I've really enjoyed the kind of back and forth that we've been able to have during the matches."

Insisting that his father's victory against German star Stich was the more eye-catching feat, Shelton said: "I think a lot more impressive that he was able to do it back in the day, beating the number two player in the world as 50-something in the world."

- 'Biggest challenge in tennis' -

The father-son duo also worked together when Ben was a college player in Florida, but the 2023 US Open semi-finalist appreciates their relationship more now.

"He was obviously my coach in college. That was tough because there's 11 other guys on the team. I'm the coach's son, so he has to show that there's no favouritism, which I understand," he said.

"But also, I'm running more sprints than everyone else when I do something wrong or show up late. I'm getting chewed out for more.

"So things were much more difficult then than when we got out on tour. I really started to appreciate everything he was bringing to the table for me."

Shelton has gone the distance in each of his first three matches, becoming the first man since Ernests Gulbis in 2018 to require five sets each time on route to the Wimbledon fourth round.

He will need that durability in the last 16 when he faces a daunting showdown with world number one and Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner.

Shelton defeated the Italian in their first meeting at Shanghai in 2023 before Sinner came out on top in Vienna later that season and at Indian Wells earlier this year.

"He's one of the guys who has had the most success on tour so far this year as the world number one," Shelton said.

"The biggest challenge in tennis is playing the top-ranked player. But I'm never somebody to be scared going into a match or feel unprepared."

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