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Shelton-Sinner Preview: What You Need To Know Ahead Of Tuesday's Clash
3 Min Read · March 12, 2024

Looking for a blockbuster Round of 16 match at the BNP Paribas Open? Look no further than Jannik Sinner’s Tuesday duel with Ben Shelton. Let’s take a closer look at this appetizing contest.


How They Got Here

Sinner and Shelton have reached the final 16 in different ways. 

Shelton needed three sets to advance against both the fast rising Jakub Mensik in the second round and and then Francisco Cerundolo in the third round. He came from a set down against Mensik and needed a third-set tiebreak against the Argentine in a tussle where both got their fair share of support from a raucous Stadium 1 crowd.

“It’s just one of those atmospheres you love playing in,” said Shelton. “There’s people screaming for me. There’s people screaming for Fran.”

Going the distance is nothing new for the Atlanta native — it’s five straight matches now.

Sinner on the other hand hasn’t missed a beat since winning his maiden Grand Slam title at the 2024 Australian Open. The Italian’s winning streak stands at 17 after two straight-set victories in Indian Wells against a pair of players whose serves are key strengths, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Jan-Lennard Struff

In both, Sinner faced the first break point but managed to save it, then took over. Overall, the Italian has fended off all four break points he has come up against so far in the tournament.

Sinner enters Tuesday's Round of 16 showdown with Shelton riding a 17-match win streak.

What’s At Stake

Shelton has flourished playing in front of American home crowds, most notably at the 2023 US Open. The lefty went all the way to the semifinals at Flushing Meadows, stopped only by the legendary Novak Djokovic

But the World No. 16 is bidding for a first quarterfinal at a home Masters event. Last season, Shelton lost in the second round in Indian Wells and first round in Miami, and in the second round in both Canada and Cincinnati. It wasn’t necessarily a surprise given his inexperience and opponents he encountered. 

A win over Sinner would thus get him to the quarterfinals, not to mention ending the 22-year-old’s imposing win streak.

Sinner, a former alpine skier, spoke this week about respecting his opponents but not fearing them — or losses.

“I realized when I skied that I had fear to go, the downhill races,” he said. “When you go very fast and then you jump 20, 30 meters, it's different. And then in my mind in tennis, it's nothing to be scared about, no?”

Sinner’s record against the Top 20 of late is ‘scary’ — 19-2 in his last 21. Shelton and Djokovic were the only two who handed him defeats. 

Head-To-Head History

The pair have split their two previous meetings, which came in a matter of weeks in October.

Sinner won the last one indoors in Vienna, compiling an impressive tally of 28 winners and only six unforced errors in the first round. It marked a fairly quick turnaround for Shelton, who had bagged his maiden title days earlier in another continent (Asia).

Shelton edged Sinner in Shanghai in a third-set tiebreak, part of a fruitful Asian swing indeed for the young American. The tiebreak decider on center court proved to be wild. Shelton led 4-0, trailed 5-4, then claimed the last three points to make a first Masters quarterfinal.

The win also happened to come a day after his 21st birthday.

“Maybe I am addicted to playing on the big stages,” Shelton said at the time in a statement that perhaps remains true.

Stadium 1 on Tuesday will certainly be a big stage for Shelton to test this theory.

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