By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Saturday January 21, 2023
Call them the unusual suspects. The American men have placed four players in the round of 16 at the 2023 Australian Open, and they aren’t the names you’d typically expect. Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, John Isner – they are all out.
This time the spotlight is shared by a group of young and quickly rising players that have been under the radar at times = Ben Shelton, Tommy Paul, JJ Wolf and Sebastian Korda.
Under the radar, perhaps, but they will go down as the first American quartet to reach the round of 16 at the Same Australian Open since 2007, when James Blake, Roddick, Andre Agassi and Robby Ginepri all reached the last 16 in Melbourne.
Of the four, 22-year-old Korda has garnered the most attention, his incredibly smooth baseline game, and immense power has drawn rave reviews since he hit the tour, and so has his pedigree. The brother of two professional golfers, sisters Jessica and Nelly, and the son of two tennis pros, father Petr, a former Australian Open champion and mother Regina, a former World 26.
Oh, and there’s that fairly well-documented relationship with Andre Agassi…
“I’m definitely the worst athlete in the family so far.” 😂
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 20, 2023
But Korda wasn’t expected to be in the second week by many, especially when he drew a third-round encounter with 2022 runner-up Daniil Medvedev.
The other three are even less heralded. There is Shelton the 20-year-old southpaw who had never played a match outside of the United States until making the trek to Australia this month. Here he is, sitting pretty in the round of 16 after knocking off Alexei Popyrin on Day 6.
Shelton, the son of former ATP pro Bryan, is playing in his second major.
Ben Shelton. Wow!
First Oz Open. First trip outside the USA. Second major.
Into the fourth round with a poised 6-3, 7-6 (4) 6-4 victory over Aussie Alexei Popyrin
— Christopher Clarey 🇺🇸 🇫🇷 🇪🇸 (@christophclarey) January 21, 2023
Then there is Wolf, a hard-hitting talent that has been on the scene for a while, but is only playing in his third Grand Slam main draw. Wolf blasted past compatriot Jenson Brooksby on Day 6, and will face Shelton for a spot in the quarterfinals.
Last but not least there is Paul. The athletically gifted 25-year-old has…