Growing up, Shelby Rogers went to the Family Circle Cup (Volvo Car Open) every year since she was 7. As a star-struck ball girl she was told by a past champion she would play there someday — 10 years later that clay court daydream became a reality.
The Daniel Island tennis phenom knew early on in her adolescence that she had what it takes to play at the next level. A long list of Division I suitors offering full-ride college scholarships confirmed that.
In a few weeks, Rogers will graduate from an online undergraduate degree program at Indiana University East with a bachelor’s in psychology. Coincidentally, her sister Sabra — the former Bishop England tennis standout and All-American at Emory University — is now a psychologist.
At the ripe age of 17, after deciding to pull out of First Baptist and finish high school from home, Rogers elected to forgo college and take her talents to the USTA National Training Center in Boca Raton, Florida. That same year, in 2010, she turned pro and made her debut in one of the world’s most elite tournaments that just so happens to be on the same soil as her backyard.
“It’s a really storybook thing that you can’t make up so I’m very thankful to be able to play there again this year,” Rogers said.
Now, at 28, Rogers is ranked as the No. 48 player in the world. One of her goals is to break into the top-30 by the end of this season.
Last year’s Volvo Car Open was canceled due to COVID-19, what would have been the 20th anniversary since the 49-year-old tournament moved from Hilton Head Island to Charleston in 2001. This year also marks Rogers’ 10th appearance.
The last time Rogers played at the Volvo Car Open in 2019, she was returning from physical therapy after a 15-month hiatus from the tour due to surgery on her left knee. She received a wild card exemption and ended up finishing in the Round of 32.
“My first match, my first win back, in my hometown with fans there was something I will definitely never forget,” she said.
The following are the top-five moments in Rogers’ mind when she looks back on her memories at the Volvo Car Open:
1. Her 2019 return as a wild card pick after 15 months off due to an injury.
2. In 2010, when she played in the qualifying for the first time ever.
3. In 2001, as a ball girl, giving flowers to Jennifer Capriati when she won and received a kiss on the cheek. Capriati told Rogers she would play the tournament someday.
4. In 2017, winning the third match 7-6 in the Round of 64.
5. In 2017, making the quarterfinals, the furthest she’s succeeded in the tournament.
This year, Rogers will not have the home crowd physically behind her as there will be no fans allowed at the tournament. She won’t even be staying with her family like she normally does. [Read about the VCO Bubble on page 16.]
So far, Rogers has 10 wins this season. The hometown heroine looks to add to that tally next week.
Here’s how Shelby Rogers fared in her last nine showcases at the VCO:
• 2010: Qualifying Round 1
• 2011: Round of 64
• 2012: Qualifying Round 2
• 2013: Qualifying Round 1
• 2014: Round of 64
• 2015: Round of 32
• 2016: Round of 64
• 2017: Quarterfinal
• 2018: Did not play due to injury
• 2019: Round of 32