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Taylor Fritz defeated Ben Shelton (4/6 6/4 6/3) in the 2nd round of Indian Wells on Saturday March 11, 2023.

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Both players are among the 9 Americans in the top 50. While Taylor Fritz broke into the world’s top 5 earlier this year, Ben Shelton continues his incredible rise in world tennis. Since his first ATP match played at the Atlanta Open in July 2022, the young prodigy has risen 241 spots in the rankings. Considered one of the most promising players in the world, Ben Shelton is living up to the expectations placed on him. He started the 2023 season by reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.

Not yet a seeded player, he didn’t land in an easy draw at Indian Wells. In his second match in the California desert, Ben Shelton came up against a stronger opponent. Taylor Fritz will continue his title defense on Monday against Sebastian Baez.

A quick first set

Taylor Fritz started the match on serve. The first point is the only one he gave to his opponent. Ben Shelton picked up the score thanks to a game won at the net: 1/1. Returners struggled to return serves; rallies were rare. Taylor Fritz took time away from his opponent, while Ben Shelton concluded his points at the net: 2/2. The fifth game of the match was an enchanted interlude for the 20-year-old. Taylor Fritz lacked first balls; he let Ben Shelton dominate the rally. The latter showed his great hand. An amazing drop shot gave him the first break point of the match. After an endless rally, he took the lead: 3/2. As soon as this game was over, the set returned to its original shape: the servers were the law. The two players only played love games until the end of the set: 6/4.

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During the first 33 minutes of the match, Ben Shelton and Taylor Fritz played a very erratic tennis. During their service games, the two Americans didn’t give their opponent any respite. The first one concluded his points at the net while the second one used his power from the baseline.

Ben Shelton begins to falter

The number 4 seed continued to rely on dazzling first serves: 1/0. Ben Shelton allowed more rallies to take place during his service games. His forehand accelerations and his constant desire to play forward enabled him to win them: 2/2. He still couldn’t break Taylor Fritz’s serves – who led 3/2. As the set went on, Ben Shelton’s first ball percentage dropped. He picked up the score after a tied game: 3/3. The young hope multiplied chipped forehands and sliced backhands while Taylor Fritz played flat: 4/4. After a game won easily by the latter, Ben Shelton served to stay in the set. Under pressure, his game betrayed him. He hit two volleys that landed in the net, costing him the set: 4/6.

In the second set, Taylor Fritz picked up the momentum of the first set. Almost untouchable during his service games, he inflicted constant pressure on his opponent. Ben Shelton caved in when it mattered most. He lacked conviction and first serves.

A third set that confirmed the previous one 

While Taylor Fritz continued to play well, Ben Shelton was slowly falling apart. The unforced errors were piling up and the winners were becoming rare. He hanged on: 1/1. Taylor Fritz took advantage of his opponent’s short balls to enter the court: 2/1. Ben Shelton responded with a love game that gave him some relief: 2/2. The titleholder left his opponent with nothing but crumbs during his serve games : 3/2. Ben Shelton played too approximately; he didn’t believe he could win anymore. A series of unforced errors gave Taylor Fritz the break: 4/2. Ben Shelton’s shots have lost their intensity in this last set. The latter served to stay in the match, which he managed to do: 5/3. However, Taylor Fritz sealed the match on his second match point: 6/3.

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During the third set, Ben Shelton’s game progressively fell apart. His lack of first serves took away the free points he had at the beginning of the match. While he was able to hold the rally in the first few games, his balls were getting shorter and shorter. Taylor Fritz showed consistency; he took advantage of the opportunities his opponent offered.

This match highlighted Ben Shelton’s strengths before revealing some weaknesses. He showed his abilities at the net and his conquering tennis. However, he is still too dependent on his first ball. When it gave up on him at the end of the match, he was unable to reinvent himself. His lack of forehand depth made it too easy for Taylor Fritz. The latter, not in his best day, remained solid. He relied on his most consistent strengths – hitting power, deep balls, dazzling serves – without taking too many risks.

Indian Wells : Ben Shelton against Taylor Fritz

With no points to defend this season, Ben Shelton’s elimination is without consequence. The Miami Master 1000, which follows Indian Wells, will be another opportunity to continue his rise in world tennis.

Marnie Abbou

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