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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, October 25, 2023


No. 2-seeded Jannik Sinner scored the lone break in the penultimate game edging Ben Shelton 7-6(2), 7-5 in a pulsating Vienna opener.

Photo credit: Fred Lee/Getty

Unleashing wrecking ball serve, Ben Shelton bruised the back wall.

Undaunted Jannik Sinner responded with shattering depth to snap Shelton’s five-match winning streak.

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No. 2-seeded Sinner scored the lone break in the penultimate game edging Shelton 7-6(2), 7-5 in a pulsating Vienna opener.

It is Sinner’s 17th victory in 18 first-round matches this season and avenges his Shanghai setback to Shelton. A streaking Sinner is 20-4 since the start of July, including title runs in Toronto and Beijing.

Two weeks ago, the left-handed Shelton stung 15 aces snapping Sinner's seven-match win streak 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) in a sensational Shanghai thriller.

In today’s rematch, Sinner adjust his return position a bit, moving up closer to the baseline at times to battle off body serves, and returned the favor snapping Shelton’s winning streak.

The victory vaults Sinner into an all-Italian second-round clash vs. Lorenzo Sonego. Sinner is 3-0 lifetime vs. Davis Cup teammate Sonego.

It’s a testament to the quality and depth of the Vienna field that we saw the fourth-ranked Sinner square off against Shelton, coming in at a career-high No. 15, in the opening round.

Shelton saved a break point in his opening service game, eventually leveling after two games.

The server imposed love holds in three of the next four games. Sinner saved two break points holding for 5-4 and erased another break point edging ahead for 6-5 before Shelton slammed his second love hold to force the tiebreaker.

Their lone prior meeting in Shanghai culminated with Shelton fighting through a third-set tiebreaker 7-6(5).

Today, Sinner turned the tiebreaker tables. Sinner fired a forehand pass crosscourt and stung a forehand winner down the line charging out to a 5-0 lead in the breaker.

Drilling a diagonal forehand brought Sinner set points and when Shelton slapped a backhand return wide, the Italian snatched a one-set lead after 52 minutes.

Tokyo champion Shelton is already one of the most explosive servers in the sport.

The US Open semifinalist showed it down break point in the fifth game. Shelton slashed three straight aces hammering his way out of trouble for 3-2.

Two games later, Sinner spun a backhand pass for another break point. This time, Shelton sprint he can opener serve to open the court and slid a volley winner into the expanse of space to deny break point as he held for 4-3.

Though Sinner was winning most of the extended exchanges to that point, Shelton applied pressure earning break point in the eighth game. Sinner slammed an ace to subdue the stress as he scraped through a tough hold to even after eight games.

Facing break point in the 11th game, Shelton fired a serve down the middle to save it. Shelton knifed a backhand approach and made a side-spinning volley, but Sinner, who was moving backward, showed his ball-control skills spinning a backhand pass for another break point.

To that point, Shelton had saved all four break points he faced.

An unrelenting Sinner finally cracked through crunching a forehand down the line to break for 6-5.

A fine drive volley brought Sinner triple match point. On his second match point, Sinner hit a forehand down the line behind the American avenging his Shanghai setback to Shelton in one hour, 43 minutes.

Earlier, top-seeded Daniil Medvedev was nearly untouchable on serve torching 19-year-old Frenchman 6-4, 6-2.

The 2021 US Open champion Medvedev served 76 percent, won 28 of 31 first-serve points and dropped only five points on serve in a 75-minute sweep of the Antwerp finalist.

Defending Vienna champion Medvedev scored his sixth straight win at the Erste Bank Open. Medvedev will meet 17th-ranked Grigor Dimitrov in round two. 


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