Ben Shelton is our newest tennis star, plus a Seahawks-Broncos debate

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Good morning! Be like Ben Shelton today.

While You Were Sleeping: Ben Shelton loves the moment

An American tennis star emerged in Queens last night (or early morning), full of swagger, passion and crushing 140 mph serves. His name is Ben Shelton, he’s 20 years old and he’s a U.S. Open semifinalist after beating No. 10 seed Frances Tiafoe in a scintillating four-set match last night. 

It’s easy to say this will be the first of many major runs for Shelton, but the truth of sports is harsher. Some people never build on a magical run, for myriad reasons. Shelton might not be the next Federer, but we should enjoy what he’s doing right now. Because it’s extremely fun. 

We have a full introduction to Shelton here. A few choice takeaways: 

  • He was the youngest American to reach the quarterfinals since 2002, when Andy Roddick, then 20, did it. Roddick lost to Pete Sampras in straight sets then, though. Shelton has him beat on that front (Roddick won the tournament title the next year, though).
  • He’s the son of two tennis players, and played for his father at the University of Florida before turning pro last year. He went 65-10 at Florida and won the 2022 NCAA singles title.
  • Shelton clearly enjoys the stage. He played to the crowd all night. And he’s making this run despite being just 8-20 this year. Just look at his “answering the call” celebration after clinching the win:

Next up: Novak Djokovic, who’s inching closer to GOAThood as he finds his game again. They’ll play Friday. And speaking of American tennis stars: 19-year-old Coco Gauff plays in the women’s semifinals against No. 10 seed Karolina Muchova tomorrow. 

Pulse Polls: A spicy choice

A year later, it’s still surprising to track how the Russell Wilson-Seahawks breakup transpired. We thought Russ was an elite quarterback keeping an aging Seattle roster competitive. Maybe Pete Carroll was slowing down. 

The Denver trade made too much sense: The Broncos paired a top quarterback with a great defense and the offensive mind Aaron Rodgers trusts most? Guaranteed success! Except the opposite happened, as we know. Wilson was awful. So were the Broncos. The Seahawks — led by a resurgent Geno Smith — were great. 

Somehow this debate is far from stale and actually a fresh source of acrimony. Wilson now has Sean Payton in his corner. Seattle is a sneaky NFC favorite behind the Eagles and 49ers. 

Thus we come to our second-to-last  preseason NFL Pulse Poll (before time runs out): Who wins more games next year — Broncos or Seahawks? I could see this both ways: 

  • Option A: Wilson’s past year was a fluke, hampered by a bad coaching job. Payton returns this team to its proper form. Meanwhile, Smith regresses to his mean, and Seattle is just OK.
  • Option B: Wilson really is washed, and despite Payton’s offensive prowess, they look like the Saints when Drew Brees had a late-stage noodle arm. Smith stays consistent, and it turns out Carroll is still a really, really good coach, powered by a nasty, talented defense. 

Vote here. As always, I’ll hold my opinion until afterward in order to prevent skewing.

P.S. Multiple readers reminded me that I simply forgot to weigh in on our Trevor vs. Aaron debate. The fun side of me wants to side with Lawrence, but my brain cannot allow me to bet against Rodgers, especially when his team has the best preseason vibes of anyone.

News to Know

Henderson defends move
In an exclusive interview with The Athletic, former Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson defended his recent move to the Saudi Pro League despite major backlash. We’ve covered the situation thoroughly, but it bears mentioning that this uncomfortable situation will repeat itself for years to come, as long as the Saudi PIF has endless funds.

Kelce hurt
Chiefs star tight end Travis Kelce is considered day-to-day with knee inflammation, a source confirmed to The Athletic after practice Tuesday, with more tests expected today. Losing Kelce would be huge for Kansas City in tomorrow’s opener against Detroit and for fantasy owners across the country. Read about the impacts here.

Stanton’s milestone
Giancarlo Stanton hit home run No. 400 last night, becoming the fourth-fastest player in MLB history to reach the mark. The achievement comes in a career-worst year for Stanton, who’s still 33. Reaching No. 500 isn’t out of the question.

More news

  • Superstar Breanna Stewart broke the WNBA record for points in a season last night. The record might not last through the season.
  • Chris Mortensen has stepped away from his role at ESPN, although he’s not terming it a “classic retirement.” Football season will be strange without him.
  • The Colorado Rapids parted ways with head coach Robin Fraser. Colorado is at the bottom of the MLS table.

Quote of the Day: Deion’s quick study

Deion Sanders has been the head coach at Colorado for seven months, but he’s apparently well-versed in the program’s history already. The Buffaloes (ranked, I might add) play Nebraska this week, and here’s what Coach Prime — and his son — said about the matchup: 

“This is personal,” Deion said. “That’s the message of the week: This is personal.” 

“Colorado, we don’t like Nebraska. Simple,” Shedeur Sanders said. “That’s just what it is.”

Each week, college football coaches have to spin up motivational tactics to gain an edge on Saturdays. It works for Kirby Smart or Nick Saban when they tell their five-star recruits that no one believes in them. And it could work for Sanders, who gets the opportunity to tell his players this week that Nebraska — a team the school has played just twice since 2010 — is maybe the team Colorado’s fans want to beat. A nice way to beat complacency, yeah? 

It will be the 72nd meeting between the programs, who were once fierce Big Eight rivals when both were national title contenders each year. But that was 30 years ago. 

Hey, it’s fun at least. David Ubben thinks this Colorado team is the most interesting in the history of college football, and he makes some good points. Good for us?

Pulse Picks

Sean McVay made no secret of his retirement thoughts the last two offseasons. His employer admires him even more because of it. Jeff Howe talked with McVay, Les Snead and three other coaches to tell a wonderful story of humanity and understanding. Worth your time today. 

Dianna Russini emptied her notebook on some big NFL storylines as we approach Week 1. Joe Burrow’s contract, Chris Jones’ holdout and more are covered. 

Mike Sando did some last-minute cramming with NFL execs, who ranked the AFC 1-16

Nicole Auerbach has a smart follow-up on Clemson’s poor Week 1: Dabo Swinney’s transfer portal stubbornness could sink the Tigers

Speaking of transfers: Wisconsin freshman Tucker Ashcraft made a big impression this weekend, just months after Sanders booted him off Colorado’s roster. 

Kyle Schwarber is hitting .193, but the Phillies are thrilled with him at leadoff? Matt Gelb explains

How does Connor Bedard shoulder the weight of the hockey world as a rookie? With a shrug, writes Mark Lazerus.

The NBA offseason has been quiet for a few months now — and that’s news in itself. Sam Amick prepares us for the coming avalanche.

(Photo: Lance King/ Getty Images)

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