Tennis – Shelton beats local hope Gaston for maiden French Open win

By Thomson Reuters May 27, 2024 | 9:00 PM

(Reuters) – American Ben Shelton won his first match at the French Open on Monday as he overcame Frenchman Hugo Gaston 3-6 6-3 6-4 6-4, not only surviving two interruptions from the Paris rain but also the wrath of the local fans.

Loud chants of “Hugo, Hugo” echoed across Court 14 as the home favourite took the opening set, but Shelton’s fierce left-handed play quickly silenced the French crowd as he took the second, third and fourth sets, converting six of 14 break points to complete the two-hour, 29-minute encounter.

“This was a pretty amazing atmosphere, honestly. This is the first time that I’ve come out to a tennis match and had a band playing in the stands on my court, so I think that was pretty special,” Shelton told a press conference.

“I love these moments. I enjoy these atmospheres. I got a lot of heckling when I was in college tennis, but today the crowd was just loud, chanting, supporting their countryman. It’s something that you love to see. There was a lot of positives out there,” he added.

The 21-year-old Shelton, who burst onto the scene last year when he reached the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park and the semis at the US Open, likened the atmosphere to an American football match and said he used to get booed at his college games.

“It’s a big motivator when you hear the chants and cheers whenever you make an unforced error, but also, there was so much energy for me, which made it awesome,” he said.

“Sometimes it’s tough when it’s completely silent when you hit a good shot, and they’re going nuts every time that you miss, but here it was a little bit more even. Obviously, he had the home field advantage, but I felt some love out there,” he added.

Shelton will play Kei Nishikori, who beat Gabriel Diallo 7-5 7-6(3) 3-6 1-6 7-5, in the second round.

(Reporting by Angelica Medina in Mexico City; Editing by Christian Radnedge)