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How the Florida Gators tennis team helped shape the success Ben Shelton

How the Florida Gators tennis team helped shape the success Ben Shelton

Ben Shelton's college tennis days at the University of Florida were humbling. Early on, he wasn't a star. Playing at No. 5 on the team's roster, he slowly worked his way up to the top. Shelton became their No. 1 player and, eventually, NCAA champion. And the momentum from his Florida Gator playing days hasn't stopped.  

Above: Ben Shelton holding the NCAA Championship trophy. Photo: Paige Apkarian.

That Florida Gators culture lives on — instilled in Shelton during his college days. According to an article on, "the 21-year-old left-hander celebrated in 2023 just as enthusiastically as he did when playing for the Gators, shouting encouragement to himself, fist-pumping while looking at his team, or cupping his other hand behind his ear after winning a point."

Shelton used to shout "Vamos!" after winning a big point. According former Gator Andres Andrade from Ecquador, "He’s always said it. He copied it from some of us on the team who used to celebrate like that, and he’s said it ever since. It’s one of the few words he knows in Spanish."

Shelton explains, "I had a few Spanish-speaking teammates on my team at Florida who are some of my best friends, and it just became a thing for all of us on the University of Florida team."

A nod to the Gators was evident during Shelton's thrilling run to the US Open semifinal last summer. He pretended to pick up the phone and hang up after some of his big wins. This gesture was originally inspired by fellow Gator (and track star) Grant Holloway.

YouTube: NCAA Championships

“I think it’s great that he shouts and celebrates with his box all the time like at university,” adds Andrade. “I know he has been criticized a lot for it, but ... I think it’s good to celebrate like that. It’ll help you win a lot of matches.”

“He’s always been hungry for more,” says Abdullah Shelbayh, another of Shelton’s Gators teammates. “I remember that he always believed in himself, that he had the opportunity and the game to beat anyone. He was never intimidated by an opponent. I think that’s what helped him have his breakthrough on tour this year.”

“Ben is a very friendly and funny guy,” adds Shelbayh. “We get on very well. I really enjoyed my time with him in Florida. That’s why I think what he’s achieved this year is great.”

Andrade agrees, “Everyone has always really loved him. He doesn’t feel superior to anyone. His father is a very respectful gentleman. Ben is too.”


Source:; Photo credit (at top): Corinne Dubreuil for ATP Tour

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