Alexander Bublik vs Ben Shelton
Time: 7:00 PM IST
Ben Shelton may not be a clay court specialist, but his remarkable perseverance and self-belief during the European clay swing are truly praiseworthy. Despite being new to this setting, having only played seven clay matches before 2023, and none on European clay, the American youngster managed to secure at least one victory in three out of the five clay tournaments he participated in this year. He even won a set in three of the four matches he lost against top players like Grigor Dimitrov and Jan Lennard Struff, while pushing eventual champion Casper Ruud to a tiebreaker in Estoril.
For a player who is still taking his first steps on the main tour, the first half of the season has been a dream come true for Shelton. He achieved a significant milestone by winning his first professional match outside of the United States in Auckland, defeating Sebastian Beaz in January. He also showcased his talent by reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, which helped him climb as high as #35 in the rankings, a remarkable feat for someone who was ranked outside the top 500 just a year ago.
Alexander Bublik, on the other hand, has not had the best of luck on clay courts. Despite not being a fan of playing on clay, the big-serving Kazakh has maintained a positive attitude throughout the clay swing this year. He finally broke his streak of three consecutive first-round exits from the Rome Masters by defeating Pedro Martinez, the 2022 ATP Santiago champion, in straight sets this week. Despite trailing 5-2 in the second set, Bublik showed resilience and managed to win in two sets, 6-3 7-6.
Bublik has been dominant against left-handed opponents, winning 16 of his last 17 matches against them. It is worth noting that he has not lost to a left-handed player on clay since the Bordeaux Challenger in 2018. Additionally, he managed to win a set against Alexander Zverev and Holger Rune and recently participated in a Challenger event in Aix-en-Provence.
The more consistent Ben Sheton should be a stern test for Alexander Bublik.
Prediction: Back Shelton to win