Ben Shelton v Taylor Fritz v Tommy Paul: The battle for US No 1 Ranking

Taylor Fritz, Tommy Paul, and Ben Shelton are set to battle it out in the race to be US No 1
Taylor Fritz, Tommy Paul, and Ben Shelton look set to battle it out for the US No 1 spot

There can be no denying the strength and depth in US men’s tennis.

While the nation may be missing a strong Grand Slam and world No 1 contender, the ATP has no shortage of current Stateside stars.

In recent years that has largely been spearheaded by Taylor Fritz and Tommy Paul, two former junior prodigies who have gone on to forge solid careers at the very top of the game.

But over the past 15 months, a new face has begun to make a name for himself: Ben Shelton.

With two ATP titles now to his name, Shelton has gone from a relative unknown to a top 20 player, and – as of last week – is the US No 1 in the ATP Rankings.

A fascinating tussle between the three to be the American No 1 is set to take place all across the summer; we look at how things may pan out.

How it stands

There is so little to choose between the American stars, with new No 1 Shelton 14th in the ATP Rankings, Fritz in 15th, and Paul in 16th – and just 140 ranking points separating the trio.

Open clay season

All three have had some success on clay at stages of their career.

Paul beat Fritz to win the junior French Open in 2015, Fritz was a Monte Carlo semi-finalist last year, while Shelton won the title in Houston early this month.

However, it is fair to say it is not the surface where they have always felt the most comfortable; Fritz has never made it past the third round at Roland Garros, Paul never past the second, and Shelton lost in round one on his debut a year ago.

In 2023, Fritz’s run to the fourth round in Madrid was the best result any of them achieved across the Masters 1000 events held there and in Rome, which take place shortly before Roland Garros.

His early loss in Monte Carlo, which opened the door for Shelton to become US No 1, perhaps highlights his lingering ambivalence towards the surface – a feeling all three may share.

There is scope for one of them to make some significant rankings ground with a deep run somewhere, but that feels unlikely on this surface.

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Summer showdown

The clay season might not be the ideal time for any of them to make significant inroads, but with all three having significant points to defend later in the summer things could get more interesting.

Paul has some points to defend in Eastbourne – where he reached the final in 2023 – before defending semi-final points at the Masters 1000 event in Canada.

Those Masters points will be particularly significant, but Fritz also has big points to defend across the US hard court swing.

He was champion at the Atlanta Open and a quarter-finalist in Cincinnati last summer; with the margins between the three so tight, failure to defend any other points could cost him the chance to be the US No 1.

Initially, things do play into Shelton’s hands, with only a few points to defend across the grass court swing and the start of the hard court summer after some disappointing 2023 results.

However, he will need to pick up as many points as possible this season, with a huge chunk of points to defend at the US Open.

While Paul made the fourth round – losing to the current US No 1 – and Fritz made the last eight, Shelton reached his first Grand Slam semi-final at Flushing Meadows.

Shelton will have 720 points to defend come action in New York, compared to only 360 for Fritz and 180 for Paul, meaning an early exit may cost him dearly rankings-wise.

There are plenty of unknowns lurking for all three over the coming months, and Frances Tiafoe and Sebastian Korda will also have hopes of rising the rankings and joining in this battle.

But this battle is something to watch out for, with national pride – and potentially strong Slam seedings – at stake.

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