Ben Shelton arrives at Wimbledon with his father as coach

Last year, when Ben Shelton decided to leave college and turn pro, he wondered aloud to his father, Bryan, a former player on the men’s tennis tour, whether they should embark on a project together.

Sorry, Bryan Shelton told his son, he already had a full-time job coaching at the University of Florida. Bryan Shelton handed the reins to Dean Goldfine, a highly respected trainer who had previously worked with former world No. 1 Andy Roddick. Maybe, they reasoned, it was better this way, giving the 57-year-old father and his 20-year-old son a healthy distance in his first few years as a pro.

Then Ben became the breakout star of this year’s Australian Open, riding his booming serve into the singles quarterfinals while Bryan was at home in Gainesville, Fla., getting the Gators ready for the spring season. It turns out that even well-adjusted, middle-aged dads can be susceptible to FOMO. In early June, shortly after Florida’s men’s team was eliminated from the NCAA Division I tennis tournament, the Sheltons announced that Ben had a new/old full-time coach.

“It was the right time,” Bryan Shelton said.

On June 12, father and son hit the grass court season and the next phase of their relationship, which has a big stage debut this week at Wimbledon, where Shelton, who has been called a star in the making, is scheduled to play Taro Daniel in first round Tuesday.

“We knew in the end it was what we wanted to happen,” Ben Shelton said Saturday at the All England Club.

Parent-child relationships can be fraught. Mix in coaching, which is not uncommon in tennis, especially when a parent is a former pro, and they can quickly become “toxic and harsh,” in the words of Bryan Shelton.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, who shouts during matches at his box while his coach and father, Apostolos, sometimes shouts back, can make spectators feel like uncomfortable guests at an awkward family dinner. Then again, things seem to be going well for Casper Ruud, who has made (but lost) three of the past five Grand Slam finals under the tutelage of his father, Cristian. Like Bryan Shelton, Cristian Ruud was a decent pro on the ATP Tour.

Looking for Ruuds between tournaments or on days off? Try the nicest golf course around where they compete as college buddies. Still, Casper Ruud, 24, said after his loss last month to Novak Djokovic in the French Open final that he would not rule out one day getting guidance from someone other than his father.

“It can always be good to have new, fresh eyes on your game,” he said.

For Ben Shelton, there are benefits both on and off the field to having his father around, he said. Given his strapping frame and 12-month rise from Florida Gator ranked outside the top 400 to Grand Slam quarterfinalist, it can be easy to forget how young and raw he is in tennis years and life experiences.

Ben was a late bloomer and didn’t play most of the major junior tournaments growing up. He attended a regular high school instead of a tennis-focused academy. His trip to Australia for the Open and its preliminary tournaments was his first overseas trip.

This year’s clay-court swing was his first trip to Europe. On Saturday, he confessed to feeling homesick while traveling without his parents earlier this year.

Not only has he never played Wimbledon before, but until the middle of last month he had never set foot on a grass court. He won one of his three matches on grass in the past few weeks, although both losses required a decisive third set.

Expectations for Ben’s Wimbledon debut are high and teaming up with his father, who has coached him before and won his own matches at the All England Club, could boost his chances.

The youngster’s pounding serve, tumbled forehand and ability to move forward on the court make grass an ideal surface for him if he can figure out how to stay low and master the quick, controlled footwork that wins on grass demands.

The first two days were tough, Ben said on Saturday.

“My legs felt weird,” he said. “And then after those two days, I started having a lot of fun.”

Bryan Shelton said he has always told his son that Wimbledon is the game’s most special venue, a place where he had dreamed of playing as a teenager in Alabama and watching the famous matches between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe on TV. In 1989, he walked onto a court to play Boris Becker, who was already a two-time Wimbledon champion at 22, two years younger than Bryan Shelton. Becker beat him in three sets.

“Somebody pulled up a video on an iPad and gave it to me for us to watch,” Bryan Shelton said. “Better than I thought it would be.”

He reached the fourth round of Wimbledon in 1994, his best performance at a Grand Slam tournament, beating second seed Michael Stich of Germany in his opening match.

Bryan Shelton said for the past six months, he and his wife, Lisa, had discussed leaving his university job to work full-time with Ben, but first he needed to make sure Ben still wanted him. He did.

In Ben’s early teenage years, father and son would practice before Ben left for school, arriving at the track at 6:45 every morning. Through that experience and during Ben’s college career, Bryan learned a lesson that almost all parents learn about their children: Despite all the shared DNA, they are not mini-me’s.

Bryan loved drilling on the tennis court and honing shots through hours of practice. Bor bare Ben. The competition drives him. He must play more points in training.

Bryan said as a junior player there were times when Ben would come home after losing a tournament and Bryan would ask his son what had gone wrong.

This was before Ben had grown to 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds. He wanted to tell his father that he just needed to grow up.

Bryan didn’t necessarily like that answer. He would tell his son that there were always things he could improve on, that he should make a list of the elements of his game that he needed to improve, the way Bryan felt after some of his losses. But that wasn’t how Ben ticked.

“I got in his way,” Bryan Shelton said. “What I learned I have to do is let him think about how good he is and know he’s going to do the job.”

Like every coach and player, they have had their moments on the pitch. There are times when Ben needs to let off steam and Bryan needs to be composed. An hour later someone will apologize and they move on. They share an understanding that people make mistakes, and they try to maintain their “no grudges” rule.

Ben said his dad has gotten good at picking up on the signals that it’s time to switch from coach mode to dad mode. Bryan wants to put a time limit on a video session so they aren’t constantly watching and talking about tennis. So far, he’s been happy to let Ben have dinner with friends while he stays back in his hotel room, ordering in and watching golf.

“He’s pretty easy to travel with,” Ben said of his father.

Good thing. They will do a lot of it.

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