Bryan (b. 1965) and Ben Shelton (b. 2002), the second active father-son combo with ATP titles, make for an intriguing tennis story. Unlike Czech Petr (b. 1968), Sebastian Korda‘s father (b. 2000), American Bryan has taken on the role of Ben’s full-time coach since June of this year. He’s been the mastermind behind his son’s recent successes. Earlier this year, Ben unexpectedly reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. However, he encountered a tough period afterwards, struggling to win two consecutive matches. Between the Melbourne quarterfinal loss and the first round of the French Open, he managed to win just three matches, losing twelve. This is when his father stepped in, and since then, Ben has enjoyed a 17-9 record. On the way to his maiden title in Japan (last week of the Asian swing after four weeks in China), Ben survived two challenging encounters: in the first round, he withstood a mini-match point, in the semifinals he came back from a set and a double break deficit against Marcos Giron. “That meant a lot to me and my team,” Shelton said. “We have been working really hard since the beginning to build my game and win titles on the ATP Tour. I made some deep runs lately. You see the great champions, they finish weeks off. They win titles, they don’t just get to finals. They are able to maintain their level throughout the week. I am not saying I am anywhere there yet, but to be able to do it for one week, put together five matches in a row in Tokyo is really special.” Bryan and Petr never officially met on the court, even though they spent many years on the tour together. Their sons have recently faced each other in Shanghai, and Sebastian won by a margin of two points, yet Ben is ranked higher now. 20-year-old Shintaro Mochizuki pleased the crowd with his performance. The young Japanese [215, WC] advanced to the semifinals overcoming three Top 50 players, despite having a 0-11 main-level record (three defeats come from the Davis Cup).
The past week was also noteworthy for native Russian speakers. Representatives of Russia, bulky Aslan Karatsev and Pavel Kotov  reached the finals, demonstrating the region’s strength in tennis, while in Antwerp, Alexander Bublik, representing Kazakhstan, claimed his second title of the year; he fired 11 aces and committed 11 double faults in the final. In Stockholm, 37-year-old Gaël Monfils  improved his ATP finals record to 12-22 (he has an impressive 7-1 record in finals at lower-level events) after a tense final. Monfils was two points away from a straight-sets defeat when his first serve, wide on deuce side, earned him a crucial point against his far less-experienced opponent. The beaten finalist Kotov, is a new face on the tour. Prior to 2023, he had played just half of this year’s events he participated in.
It’s essential to note that 28-year-old Nick Kyrgios, often seen as tennis’ “enfant terrible”, last year’s Wimbledon runner-up, has dropped out of the rankings due to his limited participation this year; he has played just one match in Stuttgart (last year he reached the Tokyo quarterfinal where he withdrew, and for now it’s quite possible it was the beginning of the end of his career). His future in tennis remains uncertain. On the other hand, Rafael Nadal, a potential rival of Kyrgios at Wimbledon’s semifinal last year, is currently ranked 243. Tennis enthusiasts await his return for what’s expected to be his final season next year.
There were two indoor events in Europe. In France, Pete Sampras secured his third consecutive victory in Lyon, although this would be the last time he’d defend his title there. Unlike the previous two years, Sampras faced some tough challenges in his last two matches. He came perilously close to defeat in the semifinal (Jakob Hlasek) and had to stage a remarkable comeback in the final – trailing 1:4* (15/30) in the deciding set against the local favorite Cédric Pioline, Sampras demonstrated his champion’s mettle. However, Pioline, grappling with the emotional weight of securing his first title, couldn’t hold onto his lead. The paradox of the situation was that he had reached the indoor final for the third consecutive week, with the previous two weeks seeing him as the favorite, especially in Bolzano where he was severely beaten; in Lyon, not many believed he could upset Sampras, and it almost happened… An obscure Frenchman, Lionel Barthez [291, qualifier], who was delivering both his first and second serves at the same speed (~160 km/h), had the tournament of his life. He advanced to his only ATP quarterfinal and played a nail-biting match lasting two and a half hours, ultimately falling short. Two Top 10 Germans, Boris Becker and Michael Stich, experienced shocking first-round exits. Stich’s loss to 19-year-old Yevgeny Kafelnikov takes on a different perspective in retrospect, considering Kafelnikov’s rise to becoming one of the world’s top players, ultimately holding an 8-3 Head-to-Head record against Stich.
In the Austrian capital, Thomas Muster couldn’t realize his dream of winning both Austrian events in the same year. The task was challenging, even though he had won his sole previous meeting against Goran Ivanišević, albeit three years prior on Muster’s beloved clay. Ivanišević was a more formidable indoor player, and despite Muster enjoying tremendous support, he couldn’t secure the title. Muster had been one of the hardest-working players on the tour up to this point, and his schedule was incredibly demanding. This marked the third straight week where he transitioned between surfaces and continents. After competing on European clay (Palermo), he headed to West Asia for hardcourts (Tel Aviv) before returning to Europe to play on carpet. This arduous schedule eventually took its toll, and despite his ranking permitting participation in the “Masters” following Vienna, he was forced to withdraw from the upcoming significant events in Stockholm and Paris.
Beijing concluded the four-week Asian swing, which included Sydney. The main favorite, Michael Chang, claimed his 14th title. Yet, in the second round against Shuzo Matsuoka and in the final, he faced stiff competition from serve-and-volley players. Chang’s triumph marked his fourth Asian title in 1993. During the same week, the most prominent exhibition event of the era took place in other Chinese city (still under the British rule) – Hong Kong, the “Marlboro Championships,” boasting an incredible prize money. Twelve players were divided into four groups, leading to semifinals and ultimately the final. Richard Krajicek reigned supreme, winning all four of his matches, including a dominant victory over Stefan Edberg in the 54-minute final, earning him a staggering, optimal $1.7 million cheque. Edberg humbly apologized to the crowd, attributing his performance to a “bad day in the office.” Due to his sickness the final was shortened to “the best of three”. The next year on the same court, Edberg would find his redemption against Krajicek by defeating him in the final 6-3, 7-6, 6-3. This special Asian event, in a round-robin format, was held in the years 1990-97, only the first edition with 16 participants. Even though from a financial perspective it resembled the “Grand Slam Cup”, it attracted very little interest from the media coverage.
Tokyo (ATP 500; hard outdoors)
🇺🇸Ben Shelton d. 🇷🇺Aslan Karatsev 7-5, 6-1
Antwerp (ATP 250; hard indoors)
(3)🇰🇿Alexander Bublik d. (4)🇫🇷Arthur Fils 6-4, 6-4
Stockholm (ATP 250; hard indoors)
(PR)🇫🇷Gaël Monfils d. (q)🇷🇺Pavel Kotov 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-3
Lyon ($575K; carpet indoors)
(1)🇺🇸Pete Sampras d. (5)🇫🇷Cédric Pioline 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-5
Vienna ($275K; carpet indoors)
(2,WC)🇭🇷Goran Ivanišević d. (1)🇦🇹Thomas Muster 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(3)
Beijing ($275K; carpet indoors)
(1)🇺🇸Michael Chang d. 🇨🇦Greg Rusedski 7-6(5), 6-7(6), 6-4
Hong Kong [$5.4M (!); ehxo – hard outdoors]
(2)🇳🇱Richard Krajicek d. (1)🇸🇪Stefan Edberg 6-1, 6-4
This entry was posted in Tournaments
. Bookmark the permalink