Shelby Rogers’ infectious smile, booming serve, fist pumps and success resurfaced at the U.S. Open.
Rogers, a Mount Pleasant native who still calls Charleston home, took New York City by storm with groundstrokes, booming serves and tons of fortitude as she exhibited proof that she has fully recovered from a knee injury that cast a dark shadow on her career just a couple of years ago.
On Sept. 6, Rogers pulled off one of the more stunning and definitely one of the most suspenseful victories of the tournament, knocking off No. 6 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, 7-6(5), 3-6, 7-6(6), to reach the U.S. Open quarterfinals for the first time.
Rogers was set to face Naomi Osaka of Japan in one of the quarterfinals scheduled for Sept. 8. Osaka is the No. 4 seed and 2018 U.S. Open champ. However, Osaka is 0-3 lifetime vs. Rogers, including a loss to Rogers in the 2017 Volvo Car Open Round of 16. (The match had not been played by press time).
Sunday’s match against Kvitova was significant for Rogers in two ways. She saved four match points, which speaks volumes about her mental approach. And she was able to outlast Kvitova in a match that lasted two hours and forty minutes, which shows she’s physically ready to take on the world.
“Day 72 in the bubble,” World No. 93 Rogers said in a post-match press conference. “It’s been a long time here in New York. I’m happy to be sticking around for some more.”
It marked the second time in the 27-year old Rogers’ career that she was able to send the two-time Wimbledon champ to the showers in a Grand Slam event.
In 2016, Rogers posted a 6-0, 6-7(3), 6-0 victory in the third round of the French Open en route to the quarterfinals at Roland Garros.
Sunday, it was déjà vu, although this was much more grueling. Rogers saved three match points on her serve at 5-4 in the final set, and yet another against a Kvitova serve at 6-5 in the tiebreak.
“The tiebreaker, the whole match actually, was a little bit of a roller coaster for both of us,” Rogers told reporters. “The first set, you know, a tiebreak. Kvitova upped her level a little bit in the second there. I was up a break in the third, she breaks back. She’s just hitting missiles. She served unbelievable.
“To get that double-fault there in the (third-set) breaker, a little luck was on my side today I think. I just kept trying to hang in there and defend her balls, take care of my serve there in the third after I got broken. Thankfully somehow got it done.”
Rogers underwent knee surgery in 2018 and the last two years were pretty lean until her arrival in Gotham. She missed the 2018 season and played in the 2019 Volvo Car Open, but the results weren’t good.
She lost in the first round of the 2020 Australian Open, and then the success light went on after the WTA Tour returned after shutting down due to the COVID-19 virus.
She defeated Serna Williams last month at Top Seed Open quarterfinals in Lexington, Kentucky. She had three victories in Flushing Meadows, including a victory over No. 11 seed Elena Rybakina prior to Sunday’s conquest.
“I knew I could always do it,” Rogers said of a return to a Grand Slam quarterfinal. “It was a matter of head down, working hard to get back to that point. Being here, I want to push past it, really see what I’m made of.”