【2023/10/22】Shelton Overpowers Karatsev in Straight Sets to Win his first ATP Title

On a chilly Autumnal afternoon in Tokyo, Ben Shelton enjoyed his first ATP Title at the Kinoshita Group Japan Open after only 15 months on the ATP Tour. The 21 year old took the match in straight sets from 50th ranked Aslan Karatsev, using a combination of his whipping forehand and massive left hand first serve. He did not hesitate to rush to the net overpowering his opponent and forcing the error. Karatsev tried to force Shelton into a defensive game by pushing him back and drilling his backhand but it just wasn’t enough and he could not resist the relentless attack by Shelton at the net.

The match started with both players holding serve until 5-5 when Shelton tried to force the break while Karatsev tried everything to resist. Karatsev won a point on a drop shot, then double faulted. Karatsev rushed to the net and forced the error from Shelton for a 30-30. Shelton rushed to the net and forced the error return from Karatsev to get the break 6-5. The final game of the set on Shelton’s serve finished with a 209kph winning serve followed by a superb serve and volley giving him the set 7-5.

Shelton jumped up and back on the court before time was called, eager to play the second set. At 1-1 Karatsev was already under pressure conceding two double faults and fended off Shelton’s net game attack. However he finally lost the game after Shelton approached on the short ball and convincingly finished off with a powerful down the line forehand giving him the break 2-1. The next game demonstrated Shelton’s serve power taking the game with an ace and no return from his opponent.

In a somewhat controversial game at 3-1, Karatsev thought he had won the game after hitting a perfect drop shot at the net and started towards his bench. However Shelton challenged and the call went against Karatsev who returned on court on a 40-15 score. After a series of rapid fast forehand down the line shots Shelton pushed for the break and at 40-30 for Karatsev his frustration boiled over when he smashed his racket to pieces on the ground meriting a citation. A final lightning fast forehand down the line by Shelton gave him the break 4-1.

Shelton seemed to have the mental advantage going in to serve at 4-1 and on serve. Karatsev hit a number of unforced errors in the last two games as he tried to regroup. Despite approaching the net and winning a big overhead smash at 0-30 and yet another big serve to save the break, Karatsev finally relented and Shelton took the final 7-5, 6-1.

As the ground staff at the tournament lined up on court for the trophy presentation, Karatsev graciously congratulated his opponent and expressed how much he enjoyed being in Tokyo. A clearly thrilled Shelton showed his appreciation and gratitude to his team including his coach and dad, his family and all the staff at the tournament. Tokyo will forever be special to the Kinoshita Group Japan Open Tennis Championships winner Ben Shelton whose first trip to Japan turned out to be the most memorable.