Wildcard Shelbayh stuns Michelsen for his first win at Next Gen ATP Finals
The left-hander – the lowest-ranked player in the event – is now in the hunt for a semi-final spot
Abdullah Shelbayh, a Jordanian who honed his game at the Rafael Nadal Academy, produced some stunning tennis to beat American Alex Michelsen 4-2, 1-4, 4-0, 4-0 on Wednesday for his first win at the Next Gen ATP Finals.
The left-hander, who improved his ATP ranking from 470 to 185 in 2023, repaid the faith of organisers who awarded him a wildcard into the event, with a brilliant display of shot-making, winning the last eight games in a row to win it.
The victory gave him a first win in the Red Group and keeps alive his hopes of advancing to the semi-finals. Michelsen, the No 4 seed, is now 0-2.
“I’ve had a great year so far, many ups and downs, many good tournaments, some bad ones,” said Shelbayh, the lowest-ranked player in the event. “I think having the opportunity to play here, I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Fast start for Shelbayh before Michelsen levels
Carlos Moya, the coach of Rafael Nadal, described Shelbayh as having the ability to “create chaos” on the court and with a mixture of good serving, dipping returns and some outrageous net-play, he took an early lead, breaking for 2-1 in the opener.
In the shorter format of scoring, an early break is usually enough to seal a set and so it proved as Michelsen, the hard-hitting American who broke into the top 100 in 2023, made too many errors.
Michelsen, though, dug in well in the second set. The American reached an ATP Tour final in the summer, in Newport, and he began to assert himself on the match, coming forward when he could and upping the speed on his forehand. An errant backhand from Shelbayh handed him the break in the third game
Shelbayh wins EIGHT straight games
The momentum was with Michelsen and he forced a break point in the first game of the third. At that stage, it looked as if the American would forge ahead but Shelbayh saved it with an ace and after holding, that turned things around again.
The Jordanian then broke in the following game and that changed everything. From then on, it was all Shelbayh, the left-hander winning the set 4-0 and then ripping through the next four games as well to clinch an impressive victory.