CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (May 28, 2022) - Between team and individual competition, No. 2-ranked Ben Shelton played 10 total matches at the NCAA Championships in Champaign before being crowned the 2022 NCAA Singles Champion on Saturday afternoon at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex, making him the second Gator in a row to achieve this feat.
"I think it proves all the work our coaches have us put in, the way they run the program and the type of culture that it is," Ben said. "Going through the team event and then going into individuals, it takes a lot of toughness and it's really hard on the body to be able to get through the two weeks. To be able to have one school to do it back-to-back, and that be us, is really cool and speaks a lot to our coaches."
Shelton becomes just the fourth player in Florida history to win the singles title - joining Riffice (2021), Jeff Morrison (1999) and Mark Merklein (1994). With this win, Shelton will receive a Wild Card bid into the 2022 US Open Main Draw.
This is also the first time since 2005 and fourth time in over 40 years that the singles title was won by two different players of the same school in back-to-back years when Baylor's Benjamin Becker (2004) and Benedikt Dorsch (2005) did so.
Shelton put together a 12-2 sets record on his way to his first NCAA Individual Championship with a defeat of No. 6 August Holmgren (San Diego), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. In the first set, Holmgren took an early 2-0 advantage, and was able to hold onto that momentum for a 6-4 first-set win. Shelton let that fuel him in the next set - going up a break to lead 3-1, then only allowing Holmgren to win two more games for a 6-3 second-set victory.
The 2022 NCAA Singles Championship all came down to the third set. The Gainesville native started off strong with a break and a hold to lead 2-0. After holding serve for a 4-2 advantage, the Gator broke Holmgren's serve for a 5-2 score. Shelton served it out, hitting an impressive line shot to win the third set, 6-2, and his first individual title in his NCAA Tournament debut.
"I'm really happy and relieved, it was a long week," Ben said. "It was a great match and August [Holmgren] is a great player. I got to share the court with him in two finals and I ended up coming out on top in both of them, but neither was easy. To be able to beat a player like him and come out on top, it's really special. I'm glad that I got to do it with a lot of my family here, my dad on the court with me, our great coaches, and my teammate Sam on the sidelines cheering for me. It was a great experience."
In his tournament run, Shelton defeated No. 27 Ondrej Styler (Michigan), No. 57 Axel Nefve (Notre Dame), No. 19 JJ Tracy (Ohio State), No. 15 Arthur Fery (Stanford), No. 3 Adam Walton (Tennessee) and No. 6 Holmgren of San Diego. In doubles, both him and Riffice made a quarterfinals appearance, the first for the Gators since 2018.
Shelton ends his tremendous 2021-22 season on a 10-match win streak and with a 37-5 singles record, and a team-high 27 of those coming against ranked opponents. The SEC Tournament MVP totaled a 20-4 dual record in singles, a 10-2 record in conference play and was 14-2 at the No. 1 singles position.
Shelton's 37 singles wins puts him in sole possession of sixth in program history for single-season singles victories, while he also ranks tied for seventh in single-season combined wins with 61 (37/24).
The sophomore helped lead the team to its third-straight conference championship and first SEC Tournament title since 2016. He also became the youngest player in school history to be named the conference Player of the Year at just 19 years old.
"I'm just really thankful... Thankful for the Gators to give us the opportunity to be here and represent this program. Thankful for Ben for choosing to come to Florida," head coach Bryan Shelton said. "I'm just really proud of him today with the way that he competed. He never lost his resolve even after losing the first set, he just continued to get better as the match progressed. The longer the match continued, the better he played. So, it was just fun to see him at his very best today."
R64: #2 Ben Shelton (UF) def. #27 Ondrej Styler (MICH), 7-5, 6-2
R32: #2 Ben Shelton (UF) def. #57 Axel Nefve (Notre Dame), 6-0, 7-6 (1)
R16: #2 Ben Shelton (UF) def. #19 JJ Tracy (Ohio State), 6-4, 6-4
QF: #2 Ben Shelton (UF) def. #15 Arthur Fery (Stanford), 6-3, 6-4
SF: #2 Ben Shelton (UF) def. #3 Adam Walton (Tennessee), 6-7 (3), 6-3, 7-5 Finals: #2 Ben Shelton (UF) def. #6 August Holmgren (San Diego), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2