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‘Felt Like a Football Match’ – Overwhelmed by Italian Open Crowd, Ben Shelton Delivers a Heartfelt Message


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“I find it easy to play free when the crowd is coming at you and being aggressive. I enjoy that hostile atmosphere.” Whether the crowd supports him or not, Ben Shelton has always enjoyed the attention he gets during a match. After receiving endless trolling from the spectators, this tennis rising star saw a change in the scenario in Foro Italico. The American ATP star finally developed some friendship with the spectators.

During a recent interview with the Tennis Channel, Ben Shelton delved deeper into his match against Pavel Kotov at the Italian Open. He seemed delighted seeing a change in the crowd’s response from last year. While responding to host Prakash Amritraj, Shelton said, “Yeah, I love the energy that I had. It felt like a football match. Honestly, they really support tennis here in Europe. They love tennis. And yeah, you feel like you’re in a stadium and you’re playing for your country or something, even though, you know, most of my fans in the crowd today were Italian, but yeah, I felt like a lot of support.”

Shelton’s message showcased how the crowd’s reaction can motivate the player to perform well on the court. Last year, this American tennis star experienced a lot of booing from the audience while his opponent, Alexander Bublik at the Italian Open’s second round, received a lot of chants. However, Shelton saw how the situation transformed this year, as he spotted many Italian fans rooting for him at the venue. Not to forget, such enthusiasm helped the American ATP star beat Russian Pavel Kotov 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, and advance to the third round of the Rome Masters.


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The 21-year-old said, “I think it’s something that grows while you play, and the longer you’re on tour dealing with different things, crowds, people you’re playing the things that they bring to the table that make things difficult. You know, I’ve actually I played Bublik here last year and I was on the other end of it, the crowd was booing me and chanting for him, and I was on the opposite end of the boos this year, in this match.”

         Were you also booing at Shelton last year?

However, the No. 12 seed was not new to booing. Last year when he was set to play against Australia’s Alexei Popyrin at the Australian Open, the crowd welcomed him by booing. During the post-match conference, Shelton expressed, “They kind of set the tone when I walked on court, and I got booed… First time at a pro match that that’s happened. It was unreal… When the whole crowd is for you, you feel this expectation that you have to deliver.” Shelton beat Popyrin in that match 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-4 and successfully silenced the crowd.


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While Shelton’s Italian fans cheered for him, he had a bizarre situation during his match against Argentinian Francisco Cerundolo at Indian Wells this year.

Ben Shelton’s “crazy match” against Cerundolo

This American ATP star faced severe trolling from the spectators, as they distracted him with loud comments and tried to break his spirit so that he would lose. However, the 21-year-old defeated Cerundolo  7-6(5), 3-6, 7-6(5). When Shelton lost the second set, it was challenging for him to make a comeback. Recalling that moment during the post-match interview, he said, “A lot of help from my box over there keeping me calm after losing the second set. Definitely took a lot out of me tonight. It’s just one of those atmospheres you love playing in. There’s people screaming for me. There’s people screaming for Fran. It’s all love guys. I know you guys were screaming at me, but hopefully, we can still be friends!” 


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Shelton rose to victory like a warrior and further added, “Definitely a crazy match tonight. I heard the curfew was early here in Palm Springs. Volume up, the heckling was insane in this match. That’s why I reacted after the match point. But we got through it.”

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Despite facing trolling in the matches, Shelton has kept his calm and proved that with hard work and dedication, one can change the course of their fate. It will be interesting to see how the crowd supports him from now on after this new Rome friendship has begun.

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