Ben Shelton has stated that some of his on-court traits could be a product of watching Rafael Nadal play over the years.
Over the last 12 months, Shelton has had a meteoric rise on the tennis circuit. At the end of last year, the then-World No. 165 made a first-round exit at the US Open. The American then decided to forgo his final two years of collegiate eligibility and turn pro.
In his rookie season, Shelton has caught the eyes of fans and pundits alike with his performances on the ATP tour. At the New York Major recently, he reached the semifinals, where he lost to eventual champion Novak Djokovic. He has climbed in the rankings too, making his top-20 debut, and he is currently ranked World No. 19.
The 20-year-old is currently taking part in the Laver Cup, where he is representing Team World. At a press conference on the sidelines of the event, he was asked about similarities between his game and Nadal's. In reply, Shelton attributed his fighting spirit to watching the Spaniard play over the years.
"I think that's a huge compliment, so thank you. But yeah, I think at times on the court, you know, the way that I love to fight, that I don't give up, could be some traits that I saw or learned from Rafa growing up. You know, he was one of those guys who replicated it every match, every tournament. You could only hope to have a fighting spirit like him," he said.
"But yeah, I think that some of the things that, you know, we have seen him do on the court definitely help me out on the court, showing some emotion, showing my fire, and trying to really come after the guy that I'm playing. But, yeah, thanks for the compliment," the American added with a smile.
On Friday, September 22, Shelton made his Laver Cup debut on the right note, defeating Arthur Fils of Team Europe 7-6 (4), 6-1 to win the first point of the 2023 edition.
"Never gives up, represents the right values and he’s kept his feet on the ground" - Iga Swiatek on Rafael Nadal
Ben Shelton isn't the only player Rafael Nadal has influenced over the years. WTA World No. 2 Iga Swiatek, who has been vocal in her admiration of the Spaniard over the years, recently stated that the 22-time Grand Slam champion is one of her heroes.
Swiatek said that Nadal's fighting spirit and humble nature were what she admired the most.
“When I played my first junior Grand Slam at the age of 15, it became clear that Rafael Nadal is one of my heroes,” she expressed.
“He never gives up, he represents the right values and he’s kept his feet on the ground. He’s still the same even though he’s so successful. That’s what I particularly like about him,” Swiatek added.