Japan Open: Ben Shelton and Aslan Karatsev push through to final

(Photo by KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images) /

Ben Shelton, whether you like him or not, appears to be emerging into a tennis power. He just turned 21 years old and is in his first full year on the ATP tour and he has now reached his first tour final. Shelton defeated fellow American Marcos Giron 6-7(2) 7-6(5) 6-4 in one of the Japan Open semifinals. Ben Shelton has now won 13 of his last 15 matches.

Shelton will play Russian Aslan Karatsev in Sunday’s Japan Open final. Karatsev defeated 20-year-old Shintaro Mochizuki. Mochizuki had become a fan-favorite in his home nation’s tournament this week and began the tournament as a qualifier. For Karatsev to defeat Mochizuki was no small feat, however, as the crowd was firmly and loudly behind Mochizuki.

Karatsev ended up winning comfortably, though, as he played extremely precise and mostly error-free tennis on his way to a 6-3 6-4 victory. Karatsev won 29 of his 35 first-serve points and 15 of his 24 second-serve points. He wasn’t broken by Mochizuki. Karatsev hasn’t dropped a set all tournament so far, but that might change against Shelton.

Ben Shelton reaches first ATP tour final at the Japan Open

Ben Shelton has a booming serve and excellent forehand, though he still needs to find a bit more consistently with that shot. But Shelton isn’t afraid to let the crowd know when he wins a point. His boisterousness is already well-known, along with his trademark mime of holding a phone to his ear and then hanging up. This has turned some fans off as many people simply don’t like any shows of confidence, for some reason.

Against Giron, Shelton hammered 13 aces and still had to save 7 break-points. After falling in the first set, he had to come back from 2-5 down in the second set as well. While Shelton plays with a lot of emotion, he also seems to know how to stay calm in big moments.

In the Japan Open final, Ben Shelton will be going for his first ATP title. If he gets it, he will move into the top 15 on the tour. Karatsev is ranked No. 50 currently (though he will move up next week after making the final of the Japan Open) and he has won three previous ATP titles.

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