Ben Shelton stunned by partisan Australian Open crowd jeering his entrance

Ben Shelton

Young American Ben Shelton experienced a partisan crowd for the first time in his professional career.

Shelton managed to overcome both Alexei Popyrin and the vocal home crowd.

The left-hander’s booming serve and positive game helped him secure a 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-4 win on Saturday.

He was also able to laugh off the hostile reception from the Melbourne crowd.

“They kind of set the tone when I walked on court, and I got booed,” Shelton said, according to Tennis.com.

“First time at a pro match that that’s happened. It was unreal.

“I can always respect a whole country getting behind their guy, so it was really cool to see.”

Shelton isn’t without experience of hostile crowds thanks to his collegiate tennis background.

“When the whole crowd is for you, you feel this expectation that you have to deliver,” he says. “I find it easy to play free when the crowd is coming at you and being aggressive. I enjoy that hostile atmosphere.”

All in all the experience was somewhat surreal for the 20-year-old.

“Definitely a few moments today where I was looking around, like, ‘Wow, this stadium is pretty packed,’” Shelton said. “It was unbelievable. I definitely wouldn’t have thought that I would be here in this moment six months ago, [or even] four months ago.”

Shelton is starting to feel like he belongs in the world of big-time tennis as he has notched his best Grand Slam performance to date.

He set out to be more aggressive and try to assert himself against the Aussie veteran.

“This was the first match where I really felt like, ‘Wow, I’m on, everything is clicking, and I feel good about my game. I’m moving really well,’” Shelton said.

“I told myself that I wanted to give myself more of a green light today when I played, not be as hesitant in the middle of the points, but really go for my shots a bit more, and be OK with some errors and know that it was going to pay off in the long run.”

Shelton impressed Australian coach and commentator Roger Rasheed with his court sense.

“What’s good about him is that he has a feel for what’s happening in the room,” Rasheed said.

His victory ensured that there are four American men in the Australian Open’s Round of 16, but no more than three can reach the quarter-finals as Shelton will face compatriot JJ Wolf on Monday.

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