CNN

Tommy Paul beat fellow American Ben Shelton in a hard-fought match at the Australian Open to reach the first Grand Slam semi-final of his career.

Few would have expected either of these men to reach the quarter-final stage in Melbourne, but Paul’s experience told it as he won 7-6 6-3 5-7 6-4 to set up a semi-final clash against nine-time winner Novak Djokovic or world number 6 Andrey Rublev.

Paul, currently ranked No. 35 in the world, is now guaranteed to break into the world top 20 for the first time in his career and becomes the first American to reach the last four at the Australian Open since Andy Roddick in 2009.

“It’s my first time on this pitch. [Rod Laver Arena], my first quarter-final slam,” Paul, 25, said after the match. “It’s also the first time Ben Shelton has left the United States, so I think he had a really good tournament as well.

“Reaching the second weekend of a slam is everyone’s dream when they start playing tennis, so I can’t believe I’m here right now.”

Shelton was the revelation of this Australian Open.

The hard-hitting southpaw was only playing in the second Grand Slam of his career – the first coming to the US Open at the end of 2022 – and before traveling to New Zealand and Australia in preparation for the first Grand Slam of the year n had never even been outside the United States.

The 20-year-old currently boasts a career-high ranking – world No. 89 – and his performances so far in Australia mean he will now be ranked in the world’s top 50 next Monday.

Shelton gave a good account of himself in Wednesday’s match, fighting back after a breakdown to win the third set when it looked like Paul would walk away with a straight-sets win.

Shelton also fired 24 aces during the match, the fastest at 220 km/h and 42 winners. However, it was lack of consistency and unforced errors – 50 to Paul’s 26 – that helped his opponent to victory.

With compatriot Sebastian Korda also reaching the quarter-finals in Melbourne, it was the first time since 2000 – when Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Chris Woodruff reached the quarter-finals – that three American players had advanced to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

The 2023 season already looked like a promising season for American tennis – with Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff leading the way – but the emergence of Paul and Shelton as contenders to go far in Grand Slam tournaments only makes it all the more exciting.

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