Ben Shelton had never been out of the United States before traveling halfway around the world to begin his preparations for the Australian Open.
Checking off some of Melbourne’s famous sights is on the to-do list for a talented youngster combining his budding business career with an online business degree.
For now, tourist travel remains suspended.
“After the tournament, I hope to see some cool things. You can’t go all the way without taking in the scenery,” the world number 89 told BBC Sport.
“But for now, we’re sticking to the routine.”
The routine works. Shelton was ranked outside the top 500 a year ago and still playing for the University of Florida varsity team.
He had never won a Grand Slam match before four victories at Melbourne Park last week.
On Wednesday he faces his toughest test yet when he faces Tommy Paul – also an unranked American but ranked 54 places higher – for a place in the semi-finals.
“Leaving the United States for the first time felt really strange to me at first,” said Atlanta-born Shelton, whose father Bryan is a former ATP Tour professional.
“It took me a little while to get over the jet lag and feel like I had my feet under me after the trip.
“I feel pretty good physically now, but it was definitely a tough adjustment.
“I crossed the United States – from Florida to California – and got my passport in 2019. Finally, I was able to use it.
“Having to see two new countries, Australia and New Zealand, has been a great experience so far and I look forward to seeing more people over the next few months when I’m on tour.”
Shelton’s only previous major tournament appearance was a first-round loss at last year’s US Open, for which he earned a wildcard by winning the prestigious National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) title in May. .
By the time he played at Flushing Meadows in August he had already turned pro and announced his arrival by shocking Norwegian world number five Casper Ruud at the Cincinnati Open.
“If someone had told me that I would reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, I don’t know what I would have said. Probably ‘are you sure?’
“I didn’t expect to be where I am, but I wouldn’t say I’m totally surprised or can’t believe it.
“The hard work I put in on and off the pitch has started to pay off.”
How to improve your game and what it takes to become a full-time professional weren’t the only things Shelton learned.
He is continuing his education for a degree in General Business, taking two online courses – International Business and Entrepreneurship – and working on assignments at tournaments.
“So far I haven’t missed any deadlines, I’m doing my homework on time and I have a pretty easy workload. I don’t force myself too much,” he said.
“When I have time off the court, usually when I’m settled in the hotel room, maybe for an hour or two. It’s good to have something outside of tennis to focus on and To clear my head.
“I like to do my school work – to a certain extent – and I kept myself in control, doing my homework in advance so that it didn’t happen until the last day because it would become difficult with the time differences. .
“I’ll stick with it and I’ll definitely try to graduate.”
Although clearly academic, Shelton always seemed destined for a sporting career. But it didn’t look like it would be tennis.
Around the age of 10, he started playing with his father, who reached No. 55 in the world rankings and won two titles in Newport, but he also excelled in various sports at a young age.
“I grew up playing all sports: basketball, football, baseball, but I really fell in love with American football,” he said.
“I was a quarterback and I played for six or seven years, but that was the decision I had to make when I was about 12: do I focus and specialize in tennis or American football?
“I swore not to play tennis: it was dad’s thing and I was going to let him.
“But I’m happy to have made this decision and I’m happy with where I am.”