After a year of injuries, doubt and the thought of life forever without tennis, Charleston native Shelby Rogers is ready.
Rogers, who at one time was ranked World No. 59, starts fresh later this month when she returns from a one-year injury hiatus as a wildcard entry into the Volvo Car Open, which runs from March 30-April 7 on Daniel Island.
Rogers had an incredible 2017 season on the WTA tour, reaching the third round of three Grand Slam events in addition to reaching the quarterfinals of the Volvo Car Open. But the rise to the top soon turned into a plunge to the depths of despair in 2018.
She suffered a pronator muscle injury in her arm during the 2018 Australian Open and that only served as a prologue to what would be a painful year -- physically and mentally. She went on the injury shelf two months later when she suffered a knee injury in the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California.
Now, she’s ready to perform in front of the hometown fans, who fondly remember her as a one-time ball girl in the prestigious tournament, which traces its roots back to the days of the Family Circle Cup when it was born in Hilton Head in 1973 and moved to Daniel Island in 2001.
“It’s been a very long year with all of the physical therapy, stress and training,” said the 26-year-old Rogers, who begins her climb up the WTA ladder as the No. 734 player in the world. “Now that it’s here, it went by pretty fast. I wasn’t sure it would ever get here. I didn’t know if I would ever play again.”
Rogers rehabbed during 2018 and enjoyed the life of a normal 20-something.
“It’s a big change in your life,” Rogers said of her tennis inactivity. “You don’t know how to deal with (all the free time) right away. But you learn more about yourself and more about life. In disguise, it was a good thing because I got to explore life in a different way because I was always traveling.”
Rogers was on crutches for about three months, but she moved forward in her school work, taking college classes online. She also found time to play the piano, a skill she honed as a youth.
Volvo Car Open officials were more than happy to have Rogers part of the 2019 event.
“It’s heartbreaking to see an athlete sustain an injury that takes them out of their beloved sport,” said Eleanor Adams, the tournament manager, when Rogers was announced as a wild card. “Shelby has earned her wild card through hard work during recovery, all the while with a winning attitude. We can’t wait to see her back playing on her home courts.”
While Rogers reached the third round of Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2017, the tournament that brings the biggest smile to her face just might be her effort in Charleston in ’17.
Rogers advanced to the VCO quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Japan’s Naomi Osaka. In the quarterfinal against Maria Lucic-Baroni, she grabbed the first set of the match but couldn’t hold the momentum as the curtain fell on her Daniel Island experience.
Rogers received great crowd support from the locals.
“You can’t ask for a better place to play than at home, in front of your friends and families,” Rogers said. “Playing at home in Charleston is refreshing because it is so familiar. The fans are great. They know their tennis and they aren’t judgmental.”
And judging from Rogers’ health and mental state of mind, she’s ready to create more memories on Daniel Island.