Tommy Paul successfully slowed down Ben Shelton’s serve Saturday to reach the Dallas Open final. The second seed earned eight break points and converted three of them to oust the big-serving lefty 6-2, 6-4 in 79 minutes.
“Man, he's a really tough player. Obviously his serve is unbelievable,” Paul said after the all-American clash. “These courts kind of help me a little bit. They're not jumping quite as high as some of the other courts we've played on, so kind of kept the ball in my strike zone a little bit more.
“But I knew I had to play a lot of balls in the court. That's the key, you can't give him anything or he'll take advantage. I thought I did a really good job of that, didn't serve as well as I'd like to but somehow squeaked out a lot of those service games, so that was huge.”
Paul set the tone by threatening Shelton’s serve in the first game of the match. The 26-year-old did not break immediately, but he showed his ability to put the lefty’s delivery in danger.
The No. 15 and No. 16 players in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings have battled in important Lexus ATP Head2Head matches in the past year, including last year’s Australian Open quarter-finals and the US Open fourth round. After Shelton won their past two meetings, Paul earned his revenge.
The 2021 Stockholm champion Paul portrays a relaxed demeanour on court, but admitted he fights nerves just like any other player. He saved all three break points he faced and won 44 per cent of his return points according to Infosys ATP Stats.
“Definitely feeling it. The inside is a little different than what I try and put on,” Paul said. “Everyone feels pressure in these matches. Especially with Ben's serve, if I get broken it feels like the set's over. So it's kind of high pressure the whole match with him.”
Paul will play countryman Marcos Giron on Sunday for the trophy. Giron defeated in-form lefty Adrian Mannarino, the fourth seed, 6-1, 6-3 to reach his second ATP Tour final. It was his second consecutive upset after eliminating top seed Frances Tiafoe in straight sets Thursday.
“The energy here is incredible. I love playing in Dallas, it's amazing,” Giron said. “Two years ago, I made the semis here and I lost with match points and that stuck with me and that was hard. I'm 30 years old, so I have experience. I know what it's like to beat a good player then lose, and I know what it's like to lose and I know what it's like to win.
“Having a big win yesterday was awesome and I'm really, really happy to be able to come back today. The past is the past, all we can do is right now, so I'm just trying to take each and every moment at what it is and do my best.”