“I’m really excited to play main draw of my very first Slam out of the country,” Shelton said. “Maybe eight months ago I wouldn’t think I’d be in this position, but I’m lucky I have a good team around me helping me.”
Shelton’s girlfriend is Anna Hall, a heptathlete who won a bronze medal at the world track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., in July. Shelton, who was competing in a Challenger in Indianapolis that week, watched her events on his phone between matches. Both Hall and Shelton turned professional last summer and, though he has trounced her in pickleball, he likes to point out that he is not the best athlete of the two.
“She’s outshining me,” he said.
“It’s great, actually,” Goldfine said. “Because they challenge each other, and she totally understands what it takes to be at an elite level.”
Shelton, at 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, has a percussive, all-court game, based around a big-bang forehand and serve and an attacking mentality that often carries him to the net. He is “still raw” and still figuring out the best patterns of play, according to Goldfine, who has coached the former top players Todd Martin and Andy Roddick and most recently helped coach the 22-year-old American Sebastian Korda.
But, to Goldfine, Shelton’s upside is clear.
“I think with the natural gifts he has — his athleticism, his love for competing and for taking challenges head-on and his mental toughness — I think Ben has the possibility to be a great player who can someday challenge for Grand Slam titles,” he said. “He has all the variables you see in the top players, and being a lefty helps, definitely.”
Shelton certainly has fine tennis genes. His father, Bryan, the men’s tennis coach at the University of Florida, was ranked as high as No. 55 during his pro career and reached the fourth round of Wimbledon as a qualifier in 1994. Ben’s mother, Lisa, played junior tennis and is the sister of Todd Witsken, a three-time all-American at the University of Southern California who peaked at No. 43 in singles on the ATP Tour before tragically dying of brain cancer at age 34.