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Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Friday, September 22, 2024

Ben Shelton stepped up in a successful Laver Cup debut.

An assertive Shelton rallied from 1-4 down in the tiebreaker defeating Arthur Fils 7-6(4), 6-1 in today's Laver Cup opener at Roger's Arena in Vancouver.

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Afterward, Shelton shared simple advice Team World captain John McEnroe imparted that helped him command the second set: step up closer on second serve returns.

Because the charcoal-colored court is playing a bit slower than the US Open and the balls are fluffing up bigger, McEnroe advised Shelton to step closer to the baseline to cut off the angle on his return. 

"We were more focused on what serves I was covering, what position I'm putting myself in to take away certain serves and what I'm doing with returns on big points," Shelton told the media in Vancouver. "Early in the match, or earlier in the match I think I had a 15-30, and I sat really deep in the court, shanked a forehand return. Missed it.

"In those big moments when I had second serves later in the match, because of what he told me, I stepped in a little bit and had some huge winning shots and attacking shots off the return because of that advice."

Shelton joins compatriots Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe and Tommy Paul as one of four Americans on the main roster with Wimbledon quarterfinalist Christopher Eubanks serving as alternate.

A former all-American at Florida, Shelton enjoys the team energy, warmed up for his match with Paul and cited three American mentors with helping him navigated his Laver Cup experience.

"The three guys who are probably on me and then most during the match were Chris Eubanks, Frances, and Taylor Fritz, guys who have kind of, you know, taken me under their wing since I have been out on tour, giving me advice when I have played players that they have played before," Shelton said. "So to be able to have them in my corner during the match, you know, top American guys, guys who have had great results this summer, beaten a lot of top players, to be able to kind of see how their minds work during the match, something that I haven't been able to see before, was really cool and special for me.

"Now it's time to go out and cheer for my team."

Photo credit: Laver Cup