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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Tuesday May 28, 2024

American Ben Shelton picked up his first main draw win at Roland-Garros, joining compatriots Tommy Paul, Frances Tiafoe, Brandon Nakashimi and Sebastian Korda in the second round (three Americans: Taylor Fritz, Alex Michelsen and Mackie McDonald are in action on Tuesday) with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Frenchman Hugo Gaston on Day 2 at Roland-Garros.

Tennis Express

The 21-year-old entered the contest with an 8-10 lifetime record on the clay, but his second full season has shown him to be much more adept on the surface, as he improves to 7-3 this year on the slowest surface.

Shelton credits the decision to leave for Europe a little later than he did last year as a catalyst for success.

The American, who won his first title on the surface stateside in Houston in April, says his comfort level on clay is growing.

“I'm starting to really like playing on clay,” he said after his win over Gaston. “I got my first title in Houston, which was really cool for me, being able to get a title on American soil. It's always good to win at home.”

The former Florida Gator was 2-7 on clay prior to 2024, and he had lost his lone match at Roland-Garros to Lorenzo Sonego in four sets.

Despite dropping three of his last four matches on clay prior to arriving in Paris, Shelton says he’s feeling energized and excited about the Parisian Slam.

“Yeah, my second year here at Roland Garros I'm feeling a lot more comfortable,” he said. “I'm happy with my choice this year of staying in the U.S. a bit later and coming to Europe a bit later on this swing. I don't feel that I was 100 percent ready for those first couple of tournaments that I played, but now I'm starting to feel really good and comfortable.

“I feel that I was pretty burned out when I got to the French Open last year, having started that swing in Estoril. I'm happy with where I'm at right now and excited to keep moving forward. I have a lot left in the tank.”

A Path to Week Two?

If he can win his second-round clash with Nishikori, a third-round battle with either 21st-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime or German qualifier Henri Squire would be next. It’s a workable section for the American, who has already shown a knack for deep runs at the majors by reaching semifinals at the 2023 Australian and US Opens.

For now, he’s just happy to soak up the atmosphere in Paris as he celebrates his first win on the terre battue.

“This was a pretty amazing atmosphere, honestly,” he said after taking out Gaston on Court 14, known as the people’s court in Paris due to open seating and the full-throated support French players receive there. “This is the first time that I've come out to a tennis match and had a band playing in the stands on my court, so I think that was pretty special.

“I love these moments. I enjoy these atmospheres.”