MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Tommy Paul reached his first Grand Slam semifinal and ended the surprising run of Ben Shelton by winning their all-American matchup at the Australian Open 7-6 (6), 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 on Wednesday.
Paul, a 25-year-old from New Jersey, 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 U.S. to win a Grand Slam singles championship, at the U.S. Open 20 years ago.
The 35th-ranked Paul was a star as a junior, taking the 2015 title at the French Open and getting to the final at Flushing Meadows that year. As a pro, he owns one tour-level title, 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.
His semifinal opponent will be 21-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic or No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev. Djokovic entered their match on Wednesday night with a 43-10 career record in major quarterfinals; Rublev’s mark at that stage was 0-6.
The other men’s semifinal Friday is No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas against No. 18 Karen Khachanov.
The women’s semifinals Thursday night (3:30 a.m. Thursday EST) will be two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka vs. reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, and No. 5 seed Aryna Sabalenka vs. unseeded Magda Linette.
Azarenka, at age 33 the oldest woman left, and Rybakina, at age 23 the youngest, advanced with victories Tuesday; Sabalenka and Linette won quarterfinals Wednesday.
Sabalenka improved to 9-0 in 2023 without dropping a set yet by saving 12 of 14 break points while beating Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-2.
Linette never got past the third round in 29 other Grand Slam tournaments — and exited in the first round at 17 of those — but is still around after a 6-3, 7-5 win over two-time major finalist Karolina Pliskova. Linette’s ability to scramble and extend points troubled Pliskova, who finished with the same number of winners, 18, but far more unforced errors, 36 to 16.
“Some players, you kind of feel that the court is a bit bigger and you have many places where to play,” Pliskova said about the 45th-ranked Linette. “But with her, I didn’t really feel that way.”
Sabalenka made it to the fourth semifinal in her past six major appearances, but she is 0-3 so far at that stage.
“I feel a little bit different. I think that I lost those three semifinals just because I wasn’t really calm on court. I was overdoing things. I really wanted to get (a) Slam. I was rushing a lot. I was nervous a lot. Screaming, doing all this stuff,” Sabalenka said. “Right now I’m a little bit more calm on court. I really believe that this is the only thing that was missing in my game. If I can keep stay that focus and that calm on court, I can get through it.”
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Howard Fendrich, The Associated Press