By Sam Weiger / Contributor
With the Dallas Open reaching the quarterfinal round on Friday, American stars Tommy Paul and Ben Shelton have already booked their spots.
Slides, grueling rallies, and grit defined Wednesday’s match between Paul and Japanese veteran Taro Daniel. The roars of the energized crowd echoed through SMU’s Styslinger-Altec Tennis Complex, and in the end, it was Paul who emerged victorious, 6-3, 6-2.
“[Daniel] is a really good baseliner,” said Paul, the No. 2 seed in the bracket. “I lost break points earlier in the match but I felt like I was playing them all the right way, so it was kind of just telling myself to keep playing him like that.”
Shelton and his American opponent, Michael Mmoh, entertained with booming serves and powerful groundstrokes. A serving clinic by Shelton led him to a convincing 6-3, 6-3 victory. The 21-year-old, seeded third, won a staggering 93 percent of first-serve points and 90 percent of second-serve points.
“I’ve been working on a lot of things with my serve,” Shelton said. “How to be more effective on my first serve and my second serve.”
Beyond his personal satisfaction with his play, Shelton was energized by the electric crowd and the inspiring presence of professional athletes from other sports.
“It’s a really cool atmosphere, with a big crowd,” Shelton said. “It was cool to see Dirk Nowitzki at my match, and I just caught up with Stephon Gilmore, who is on the Cowboys.”
Adding to the buzz, top seed Frances Tiafoe was spotted observing Shelton’s match. After launching his charitable fund’s work in Dallas with a youth clinic on Tuesday, Tiafoe connected with fans on Wednesday night in Hospitality Village.
Hospitality Village, with its live country music and popcorn aroma, contributed to the tournament’s vibrant atmosphere. Guests chose everything from espresso martinis to pick-me-up tacos. Player meet-and-greets and autograph sessions added to the excitement.
Even during short breaks on Stadium Court, there was never a dull moment. Lucky contestants participated in trivia and a “ball pass relay” that snaked across the stands. Some fans ventured over to Grandstand Court to check out doubles action.
The final weekend will culminate in championship matches on Sunday, ending a three-year run at SMU before the tournament relocates to Frisco in 2025.