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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Saturday April 6, 2024

Ben Shelton

Ben Shelton reached his first clay-court final on Saturday in Houston, and will face Frances Tiafoe for the title.

Photo Source: Mark Howard

Sunday will be an all-American affair in Houston.

Ben Shelton and Frances Tiafoe made sure of it, as the Americans each moved through to set a rematch of last year’s US Open quarterfinals, which was won by Shelton in four sets.

Tennis Express

Shelton, making his debut in Houston and in possession of a 2-7 lifetime record on clay, reached his first ATP final on the surface with a 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4 victory over last year’s runner-up Tomas Martin Etcheverry.

21-year-old Shelton needed two hours and 29 minutes to get past the No.2 seed, converting three of four break points and winning 84 percent of his first-serve points to improve to 14-7 on the season.

Shelton dropped a tense opener, but turned things around in the second set, dropping just two points on serve as he forced a decider.

After a trade of breaks in the third set, Shelton broke critically for 4-2 and held serve the rest of the way.

"I think it took a few games into the second set for me to really start hitting my stride. I was frustrated as anyone would be with the outcome of the first set," said 16th-ranked Shelton after reaching his second career ATP final.

"You have a lot of time out here, playing on clay. The game just moves a little bit slower, you have more time to process. I tried to use that to my advantage today.”

Etcheverry falls to 7-8 on the season with the loss.

Tiafoe toppled Italy’s Luciano Darderi, 6-2, 7-6(2) to reach his 8th ATP final. The No.3 seed stretches his Houston winning streak to seven matches – he is the first player to reach the final in Houston during his title defense since Steve Johnson in 2018.

“I thought I played really well today,” Tiafoe said of Darderi. “He’s a tough out on this surface for sure, and he’s gonna be a tough out on this surface for a long time.

Regarding what he likes about his own play this week, Tiafoe said: “I’m competing so much better, having much more fun doing so and playing much more aggressive and just having a lot more fun on the court.”

Tiafoe will bid for his fourth career title on Sunday; Shelton will bid for his second.

“Obviously he has one of the best serves on the tour,” Tiafoe said. “Holding serve [will be] huge. He’s a great player, it’s gonna be a tough match and I’m ready for a good battle.”


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