American rising star Ben Shelton won his first ATP Tour title on Sunday, beating Russian Aslan Karatsev 7-5, 6-1 in the final of the Japan Open.
Shelton only turned professional in August last year but he reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in January and the semi-finals of the US Open last month.
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The 21-year-old had to battle through a series of three-set matches to reach the Tokyo final but he made short work of world number 50 Karatsev, winning in just over 1hr 20min.
“That meant a lot to me and my team,” Shelton said. “We have been working really hard since the beginning to build my game and win titles on the ATP Tour. I made some deep runs lately. You see the great champions, they finish weeks off. They win titles, they don’t just get to finals. They are able to maintain their level throughout the week.
“I am not saying I am anywhere there yet, but to be able to do it for one week, put together five matches in a row in Tokyo is really special.”
Ben’s maiden moment 🌟#KinoshitaGroupJapanOpen pic.twitter.com/5gymkARnmt
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) October 22, 2023
Shelton won the first set after breaking his opponent for a 6-5 lead and holding his serve in the next game.
Karatsev struggled to regain his composure in the second set and smashed his racquet in frustration as unforced errors began to creep into his game.
Karatsev hit a shot long on match point to hand Shelton the victory.
The American celebrated by running to his team and hugging his father, Bryan, who is also his coach.
Karatsev had reached the final winning all his matches in straight sets, including victories over fourth seed Alex de Minaur and sixth seed Frances Tiafoe.
The University of Floida product also beat Karatsev at the US Open.
Shelton, who began the season at 96th in the world, will climb to a career-high No 15 in next week’s rankings – a dramatic ascent keyed by his surprise runs to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and semi-finals at Flushing Meadows.