Rafael Nadal trained with Ben Shelton before the first Major of the season. Only a few could guess that the young American would have a better run than the Spaniard. Nadal suffered a left hip injury in the second round against Mackenzie McDonald and lost in straight sets.
On the other hand, the current NCAA champion slipped into the top eight and played his first Major quarterfinals. With those points, Ben will break into the top-50 on Monday, making him the youngest American in that group. It took Shelton five ATP tournaments to break into the top-50, while Nadal played eight events to find himself there.
However, his trajectories could not have been more different. Nadal barely played in junior tournaments, reaching the Wimbledon semifinal in 2002 and setting his sights on professionalism. Rafa made his ATP debut at home in Mallorca in April 2002, and achieved an ATP victory still at 15 years old.
An incredible youngster he claimed six Futures titles that year and raised his level in early 2003 to reach four Challenger finals in the first three months. At the age of 16, he reached the third round in his debut at the Monte Carlo Masters 1000 and repeated in Hamburg and Wimbledon.
Without stopping there, Nadal achieved six victories in Bastad, Stuttgart and Umag and slipped into the top 50 after the Challenger title in Segovia at 17 years and two months. At that age, Shelton was still a junior, participating in numerous USTA junior events, and had never left the United States.
Ben began his college career with the Florida Gators in 2020, working under his father Bryan de him. Shelton went 28-5 in his freshman season, becoming the team leader and a contender for the top prize in 2022. Tennis legend John McEnroe recently addressed speculation about Rafael Nadal’s retirement following his elimination at the 2023 Australian Open.
Nadal congratulates Novak Djokovic
Tennis journalist Steve Flink reckons that Novak Djokovic will not be able to win as many Australian Open titles as Rafael Nadal has at the French Open. “I don’t think so and I am an ardent admirer of Djokovic’s.
I can see him getting a couple more. I don’t see four more at this stage of his career, no, that would be astounding. Yet, it wouldn’t shock me to see a couple more. So, I don’t see the other four happening,” Flink said. “Then, we have the other question, can Rafa get No.
15 at Roland Garros? Well that’s gonna depend so much on his health because Djokovic was dealing with a very aggravating and worrisome injury, but when you talk about a hamstring, it’s not the same thing Rafa’s had,” Flink said.