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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Monday January 15, 2024

He’s making his sixth Grand Slam main draw appearance, but already Ben Shelton has done enough to be considered the American man with the greatest chance to break the curse and become the first American man to win a major since 2003 by American legend John McEnroe and many other in-the-know pundits.

Tennis Express

After Monday’s 6-2, 7-6(2), 7-5 win over tour veteran Roberto Bautista Agut, Shelton is now 10-2 on hard courts at the majors since the start of his improbable run to the Australian Open quarterfinals in 2023.

And, he’s getting better – in all areas.

“I feel like I've made some strides in certain areas,” Shelton told reporters in his post-match press conference. “I think [I am] a much more solid baseliner. At this point of the year I feel like I've rounded out my game a little bit, and I'm not relying on my serve as much as I was last year.”

Those are all good signs for Shelton’s future. The former NCAA champion at Florida has a booming serve that is already among the best in the sport. And if he can bring his baseline and return game up on par with it, he could be a true terror on tour.

Shelton, who will face Aussie Christopher O’Connell in the second round, says he has improved simply by facing so many talented players on tour over the last 52 weeks.

And it shows.

“I feel myself being a little bit more comfortable in rallies that go past three or four shots,” the 21-year-old adds. “I feel maybe last year I heavily relied on plus-ones and winning the point in the first two or three shots. So I think that my shot tolerance has improved a bit. That just comes with playing so many great players in different places, different surfaces.

“It makes you improve.”