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    Paul beats Shelton in all-American quarter-final at Australian Open

    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (AP) – Tommy Paul (AP, pic below) received a lot less attention than his younger, less-experienced, opponent, Ben Shelton, heading into their all-American quarterfinal at the Australian Open.

    Perhaps that was a product of the fascination with the out-of-nowhere Shelton: Just 20, and less than a year after winning an NCAA title for the University of Florida, he was travelling outside of the United States (US) for the first time and participating in his second Grand Slam.

    So the loud shouts heard most often emanating from the Rod Laver Arena stands yesterday, under the sun that carried the temperature to 30 degrees Celsius, were for one of the pair: “Let’s go, Benny! Let’s go!” or “Benny, Benny, Benny! Oi, Oi, Oi!” or “Go, Gators!”

    Paul’s story is a pretty good one, too, and it is the one that will keep going at Melbourne Park: The 25-year-old was a star in the juniors and now is making good on that promise in the pros, using a 7-6 (6), 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory over Shelton to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal in his 14th appearance at a major.

    “Every junior to pro has a different path… Mine has been, like, the slowest,” the 35th-ranked Paul said, mentioning a group of Americans he grew up with: Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, Reilly Opelka.

    “I like to think the last four years of my career has just been like steady steps moving up. I mean, that’s what it’s felt like. I feel like hopefully 2023 is the year where I really make a big jump.” As a bonus, Paul’s mother was in the crowd for the biggest victory of his career.

    His Mom booked a flight after he won his fourth-round match, then went straight from work to the airport to make the journey from the US.

    “She’s done a lot for me, from when I was really young until now. She’s sacrificed a lot to get me here,” Paul said. “She deserves to be here and deserves to see me win big matches.”

    Paul’s next opponent will be 21-time Grand Slam singles champion Novak Djokovic, who overwhelmed number five seed Andrey Rublev 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.

    After dealing with a worrisome left hamstring in his first two matches, Djokovic has been on quite a roll: He’s won his past 11 sets and dropped a total of 27 games in that span as he chases a 10th championship in Melbourne.

    Rublev dropped to 0-7 in major quarter-finals. The other men’s semi-final is Stefanos Tsitsipas against Karen Khachanov.

    Paul initially broke through as a teenager, taking the 2015 junior title at the French Open (beating Fritz) and getting to the final at Flushing Meadows that year, too. Since turning professional, he has claimed one tour-level trophy, at Stockholm in 2021, and, until this week, had made it as far as the fourth round at just one Grand Slam tournament – at Wimbledon a year ago.

    Now Paul is the first man from his country to make it to the final four at Melbourne Park since Andy Roddick in 2009. Roddick was also the last man from the US to win a Grand Slam singles championship, at the US Open 20 years ago.

    And while Shelton was sort of adopted by the locals – “The crowds have been pretty unbelievable… They kind of treated me like one of their own”, he observed – Paul was not drawing the same amount adoration.

    “I’ve been on the outside courts, grinding, until the round of 16,” Paul said. “I’ve been flying under the radar a little bit.”

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