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Ben Shelton sets tone for Team World with opening Laver Cup win over Arthur Fils
In a matchup of event newcomers, the American prevailed, 7-6 (4), 6-1, Friday in Vancouver.
Published Sep 22, 2023
During Laver Cup media day, first-time participant Ben Shelton exuded confidence about taking a leadoff role for Team World in Vancouver.
“Excited to be kicking things off tomorrow. Looking forward for the chance to set the tone for the team,” he said Thursday.
A day later, Shelton—making his first appearance since reaching the US Open semifinals—did exactly that by defeating fellow event newcomer Arthur Fils of Team Europe, 7-6 (4), 6-1, to win the first point of the 2023 edition.
Both players served impeccably in the opening set with neither facing a break point. In the closest game of set one, Shelton uncorked an unreturnable 147 MPH rocket at ad in to hold for 5-5. The American later overcame a mini break deficit in the tie-break by running off six straight points to close it out.
Shelton, who thrived in his two years starring for the University of Florida, upped the pressure early in the second. After missing a chance to break in his opening return game, Shelton converted on his third break point chance with forehand return up the line that proved to be out of reach for the teenager.
From there, the world No. 19 sprinted to the finish line. A second break was followed up with a hold at 15 to wrap up the contest.
“Really happy to see a red stadium right now,” exclaimed Shelton. “The crowd really got me going. I really wanted to set the tone with my energy. I’m excited to get on the bench and cheer on these guys for the rest of the day.”
In the Laver Cup format, point values for wins increase each day of the three-day competition, with Sunday offering three points for every victory. It played into Team World’s favor last year in London, when the previously winless squad came out firing to win three successive matches in a stunning turnaround for their first title.
The remaining matches Friday are as follows:
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (Team Europe) vs. Francisco Cerundolo (Team World)
Night Session, begins 7 p.m local time:
Gael Monfils (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World)
Arthur Fils / Andrey Rublev (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe / Tommy Paul (Team World)