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American wild cards Ben Shleton and Andres Martin light up Atlanta with first round wins
Ben Shelton sets up a second round clash against John Isner while Andres Martin will meet French veteran Adrian Mannarino
While three American men -Tommy Paul, Jenson Brooksby and Mackenzie McDonald – firmly entrenched in the top 60 were winning their first round matches at the ATP Atlanta Open on Tuesday, two young Americans – Ben Shelton and Andres Martin – were lighting up the tournament by winning their ATP Tour debut matches.
Florida’s Ben Shelton, ranked No 281 in the world and the reigning NCAA champion, was the first of the two college stars to win.
The 19-year-old wild card entrant, who is the son of former ATP pro Bryan Shelton, who peaked at No 55 in the world in 1992 and won two ATP singles titles in his career, defeated Indian qualifier Ramkumar Ramanathan 6-2, 7-5.
Shelton has been on a roll in recent months – winning his first ATP Challenger title and reaching two other ATP Challenger semi-finals in 2022 and his performance on Tuesday left many, including Brad Gilbert impressed.
Shleton said he is not focused on results at the moment and wants to enjoy his time on the court, something which may be due to the fact that he has not turned pro yet.
“I’m just a college guy out here having fun,” he said as quoted by USA Today. “I don’t put too much stress on my matches. I’m focused and want to do the best I can, but it’s not do-or-die for me out here.”
He will next meet the No 2 seed John Isner, who received a bye in the first round, and has alreay received a wild card for the upcoming US Open. The big pay cheque in the first round at Flushing Meadows will certainly give Shelton a chance to ponder about turning pro in the coming weeks.
“That’ll definitely be a talk later in the summer with my parents and my team and we’ll make a decision based on where my development is and what’s going to be best for me not just on the court but off the court as well,” he said. “There’s no real results or rankings that are going to sway my decision in a big way.”
“Absolutely huge for me and my confidence” – Andres Martin joins Ben Shelton in the second round
Following Ben Shelton, Georgia Tech’s Andres Martin, ranked No 736 in the world, scored a massive upset- beating 69th ranked Thanasi Kokkinakis, of Australia, 6-3, 6-2.
Martin said he stuck to his game plan on Tuesday and added that the win was huge for his confidence.
“Once I found out I was playing him [Kokkinakis], I created a game plan and I just stuck to it as hard as I could,” he said. “I focused on what I could control and it ended up working out for me. I just focused on what we had been working on this whole summer, getting better little by little. This win is absolutely huge for me and my confidence.”
The 21-year-old Martin, will meet French lucky loser Adrian Mannarino. The French left-hander came in as a last-minute replacement for the injured Nick Kyrgios and defeated Peter Gojowczyk in straight sets.