The 20-year-old is currently preparing for a first appearance at Indian Wells. In the latest Players’ Voice, Shelton says he is ready to compete against anybody, breaks down his love of playing in front of big crowds, his desire to tick Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic off his bucket list and his hopes – including the Paris 2024 Olympics – for the years ahead.
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I was at home for a couple of weeks after the Australian Open, for some much-needed time off. I got a chance to enjoy my Australian Open run, look back on it and kind of move past it and look towards these next few tournaments. I’m really excited for what is to come for the rest of the year.
There was a little bit of a celebration and my dad gave me a few days off from practice, so I was excited about that. To be able to see my family after that long month was really good, and to hear about how everyone stayed up in the middle of the night to watch my matches was pretty cool.
My dad has a very analytical and a great tennis mind. So he gave me lots of tips on what I did well and what I can continue to work on. I think he does a good job of keeping me grounded and realising that there is always room for improvement. So he has really helped me over this last month.
He is happy with a lot of the things that I was doing on court. I think he would have liked me to come to serve and volley a little more and to really take my chances to approach and attack, rather than playing so much from the baseline – which I agree with.
I have a lot more fun on the court when I’m making those plays at the net, being aggressive. I think it suits my game and I think it is my most effective tennis. Obviously, it’s a little bit more high risk.
Another tip that my dad gave me is that I really need to continue improving my fitness. Obviously, three-out-of-five sets is a whole different ball game than two-out-of-three. If you want to be in the final of a Grand Slam, you have to be very fit. So that is another point of emphasis for me, something I’m really focusing on.
It was pretty cool playing in front of some big crowds there. I really enjoy those types of atmospheres, and my success at Melbourne Park definitely gave me a lot of confidence going forward into the rest of the season.
I like to have fun when I play tennis. I wouldn’t be out here if I wasn’t having fun doing it, and that is one of the things that really helps me. I think getting the crowd behind me is something that really ignites me, or having a crowd against me can also get me going. So being able to have that interaction is important to me.
Nick Kyrgios or Gael Monfils are not references for me in this respect. I don’t think I am trying to be a showman. I’m just trying to compete at the highest level, whatever that may be. I’m not out there to try to be this ‘showy guy’ who is doing trick shots. I’m really focused on my tennis and trying to compete at the highest level. So I would say the guy in that aspect that I looked up to was Rafael Nadal. Even though we have different ways of expressing ourselves on court.
I would like to face Rafa or maybe Novak this year. I think that would be a check on the bucket list for me if I got to play one of those.
I’m still a rookie. It is my first time at Indian Wells. I never actually came here for juniors or anything, so I’m really taking it in and enjoying every moment. But yeah, I’m feeling confident in my game right now and I’m really looking forward to this tournament.
‘I am not a tourist’
I think I’m pretty professional. I’m trying to stay pretty locked in. I’ve been at a pretty good number of tournaments with these guys – and now when I am not playing, I am not a tourist when I am at these tournaments. They are trying to accomplish the same goal as me. So I’m pretty confident in where I’m at, who I am as a person – not just a tennis player – and I’m ready to compete against anybody.
I am planning to make good use of my passport now that I have one. I was recently in Mexico and I will head to Europe after the ‘Sunshine Swing’. I’m starting the clay season in Monte Carlo, so I’m really looking forward to that. From what I’ve heard, it is a great place and a lot of people were like, ‘wow, first time in Europe, straight to Monte Carlo, that is not too bad’. So I’m really excited.
I am going to try to play as many tournaments as I can, see what I like and what I dislike and the tournaments that I really enjoy. But I think that it is all about experience for me this year and to kind of feel it out as I go.
I have never played a tournament on the red clay before. I have trained on it, but never played a tournament. I think that it will suit my game well and I am not going to go over there and have crazy expectations for my very first match. But I am hoping that throughout this clay season I am going to learn a lot and improve a lot. So hopefully, by the time we get to Roland-Garros I’ll be feeling really comfortable on it.
I think that my ability to get the ball out of the zone and put a lot of spin on the ball will be important on the red clay. I would like to think of myself as a pretty good athlete – with the moving, sliding, it is a whole other piece that isn’t there as much on the hard court. So I think it is something that I will learn to be pretty good at.
I don’t have a huge ranking goal this year. I’m looking to improve a few parts of my game – my return of serve, my ability to come to the net, and my serve and volley. So if I see big improvements in those areas, that is going to be something I am going to check off as a goal.
I think that something I really want to do is go to Paris next year for the 2024 Olympics.
I am a fan of a lot of sports outside of tennis, and to be able to be in an atmosphere like that with a lot of elite athletes from all different disciplines, I think that would be a really cool experience, apart from the legacy that the Olympics has.
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