Tommy Poole beats Ben Shelton in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open

Melbourne Australia — Tommy Paul He received far less attention than his younger and less experienced opponent, Ben Sheltonheading into the quarter-finals of the US Open at the Australian Open.

Perhaps it was a product of Shelton’s never-before-seen charm: Just 20, and less than a year after winning the NCAA title for University of Florida, he was traveling outside the United States for the first time and participating in his second Grand Slam tournament.

So the loud cries of support so often heard at Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday in the sun that brought the temperature to 87 degrees Fahrenheit were for one couple: “Let’s go, Benny! Let’s go!” or “Benny, Benny, Benny! Oi, Oi, Oi!” or “Go, Gators!”

“It was a very good ride,” Paul remarked.

Paul’s story is a good one, too, and one that will continue at Melbourne Park: The 25-year-old from New Jersey was a star in the juniors and now lives up to that promise in the pros, using a 7-6(6), 6-3, 5-1 win. 7, 6–4 over Shelton to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final in his 14th appearance at a major.

As a bonus, Paul’s mom is at Rod Laver Arena and he marks the biggest victory of his career. He said my mom booked a flight after he won his fourth-round match, then went straight from work to the airport to catch the long flight from the US to Australia.

35th seed Paul said, “Getting into the second weekend of the Slam, that’s everyone’s dream when they start playing tennis, so I can’t believe I’m here right now.”

His path to this point went like this: He broke his way as a teenager, taking the 2015 junior title at the French Open and reaching the final at Flushing Meadows that year as well. Since turning pro, he’s won one trophy at tour level, in Stockholm in 2021, and until this week, he’s reached the fourth round in just one Grand Slam tournament – at Wimbledon a year ago.

Now Paul is the first man from his country to reach the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park since then Andy Roddick in 2009. Roddick was also the last man from the United States to win a Grand Slam singles tournament, at the US Open 20 years ago.

Paul’s next challenger will be the 21-time Grand Slam singles champion Novak Djokovic or Andrey Rublev. The other men’s semi-final on Friday is Stefanos Tsitsipas against Karen Khachanov.

Based solely on the rankings, Paul provided a tougher test than anyone Shilton had faced in Australia: his previous opponents ranked 67th, 96th, 113th and 154th.

Meanwhile, Paul took two seeds: No. 24 Roberto Bautista Agut and No. 30 Alexander Davydovich Fokina.

This match was the first singles quarter-final between two American men at any Grand Slam event since 2007, when Roddick won Mardi Fish In Melbourne, and Paul was generally content to block those big lefties that kept coming from Chilton, then do what he could to get the better of him from the finish line.

More consistent than spectacular, Paul limited his errors with compact swings from both wings.

At the start of the game, Shelton called Paul “a good friend” and credited him with being “one of the American guys who almost took me under their wing, kind of helping me navigate some of the early stages of my career.”

They shared a lighthearted moment when Paul’s coach, Brad Stein, asked him to look for the “T” serve on the advertising side of the court. Shilton noticed the exchange and kicked his serve wide, leaving Paul out of position and with no chance of hitting the ace. Both players smiled.

Having already done two sets, Paul broke to lead 4-3 in the third, then would serve a 30-love. But he went through a bit of a gaff. He fouled a forehand, had to hit a foul forehand, double-faulted and missed a forehand to be broken for the first time in the match.

Chilton broke again to steal that set when Paul sailed a long backhand. Shelton – the most telling of the guys – shouted “Yes!” As he raised his left fist, he then pointed to his ear with his right index finger, as if to say to the audience, “Let me hear you!”

Perhaps Shilton relaxed a bit there, because he started the fourth set slowly, made two straight errors and then missed a backhand to make a break for Paul, who quickly led 2-0.

Soon after, Paul was letting out a shriek of delight – “Let’s go!” — after the last point, and then met Shelton on the net for a warm hug.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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