At the Kinoshita Group Japan Open Tennis Championships on Sunday, Ben Shelton won his maiden ATP Tour championship after defeating Aslan Karatsev 7-5, 6-1, taking his breakthrough season to new heights.
The American won his semifinal match against Marcos Giron after coming back from a set and 2-5 down. He carried that energy into the final in Tokyo, where he frequently took the ball early on the return to rush Karatsev, winning after 84 minutes.
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“That meant a lot to me and my team,” Shelton said. “We have been working really hard since the beginning to build my game and win titles on the ATP Tour. I made some deep runs lately. You see the great champions, they finish weeks off. They win titles, they don’t just get to finals. They are able to maintain their level throughout the week. I am not saying I am anywhere there yet, but to be able to do it for one week, put together five matches in a row in Tokyo is really special.”
Shelton said, “I am really looking forward to this tail-end stretch of the year.” He is third in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Jeddah. “I think it is a great opportunity for me. Earlier in the season I was losing early in weeks, so my match count is not that high, so I am feeling fresh. I am looking forward to finishing the season strong.”
Ben Shelton Dominates in Tokyo
In his first tour-level title match against Karatsev, Shelton played freely. The 21-year-old won 80% (32/40) of the points after his first serve while hitting 18 winners and giving Karatsev difficulties with his swinging lefty serve. He now has a 2-0 advantage over Karatsev in their Lexus ATP Head2Head series, and Taylor Fritz won the title in Tokyo in 2022, so he is the second straight American to win there.
Shelton made it to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open earlier this year before making it all the way to the US Open semifinals and being the first American male to reach that stage in New York since Michael Chang in 1992. He has now won 14 of his last 16 games, going 2-0, and last week, he advanced to the quarterfinals in Shanghai.
His goal for Karatsev was to win his first championship at the tour level since 2022 when he defeated Andy Murray in Sydney. In the opening set, the 30-year-old made excellent use of his forehand, but as the match went on, he battled to maintain consistency from the baseline, making 20 unforced errors.