John McEnroe says Ben Shelton has “more upside” than any other American male tennis player.
Shelton sealed his place in the US Open quarter-final draw after beating compatriot Tommy Paul in four sets in the fourth round, hitting two serves at 149mph along the way.
The 20-year-old is the youngest American man to reach the US Open quarter-finals since Andy Roddic
He is one of three Americans in the last eight in 2023, alongside his upcoming opponent Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz, who will take on 23-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic.
It is the first time three players from the USA have reached the quarter-finals since 2005 when Andre Agassi, James Blake and Robby Ginepri achieved the feat.
Shelton broke through at the Australian Open this year when he reached the last eight. A win on Sunday means he will break into the top 30 of the ATP rankings for the first time.
McEnroe believes the 20-year-old has more potential than any other American currently on the ATP Tour.
“The serve is amazing,” he told Eurosport. “He’s a great kid, he looks to be in really good shape. He’s finally come around, he’s doing his thing.
“He got a little cocky here when he saw the 149mph. I would be too. That would be what I normally do in kilometres!
“This guy has got more upside than any other American I believe. I thought that in Australia. He’s had some growing pains. But I tell you what, this guy is going to be the real deal.”
Shelton will take on Tiafoe in the quarter-finals in what will be their first ever competitive meeting.
McEnroe says the match “is great for American tennis”.
“It’s great for American tennis to see two African-Americans,” he said.
“It’s going to inspire a whole bunch of kids to go out there and play tennis. It’s going to be fantastic for our sport here in America.”
When asked what he thinks about three Americans being in the last eight of the US Open, Shelton says tennis in the country is going in a “great direction”.
“It’s a shame that two of us have to playing the quarter-finals,” he told reporters. “Maybe we could have had three in the semis.
“Yeah, I think it’s a really cool opportunity for American tennis. This is what you guys always talk to us about: who’s going to be the next Grand Slam champion? Who’s going to do it?
“I always have the same reply: American tennis is going in a great direction and I don’t know who’s going to be the next to get a slam, be the next Andy Roddick, but I know we’re all on our own path and we’re all doing things our own way and improving year to year.
“I can see it in these guys. Hopefully see the same kind of trend with myself.
“I’m not really too worried about what happens from here on. It’s pretty cool to know that at least one American is going to be in the semi-finals here.”