Teenagers have been all the rage at this U.S. Open. But it’s a journeywoman who has pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament. And what a journey it’s been for Shelby Rogers.
After the 28-year-old American knocked off top-seeded Ashleigh Barty — her first-ever win against a world No. 1 — she’s clearly become the Flushing Meadows fan favorite heading into Monday’s Round of 16 tilt with Emma Raducanu.
The crowd helped carry Rogers past Barty, against whom she’d been 0-5. And the South Carolinian is counting on a home-court advantage again versus Radacanu.
“I just think the energy that they brought and sheer will and passion that they were providing there in the stadium [Saturday] was truly incredible,” Rogers said. “Sometimes when you’re in an empty stadium or on the back court [at] midnight, it’s tough to muster up some of this courage yourself; so it’s always helpful to have other people cheer you on and encourage you. That was definitely a factor.
“That moment when I got to 5-all was pretty special … 5-all was cool. And then when I won that was a pretty memorable moment, too.”
Over the first week of this Open, youth has been served. Teens Carlos Alcaraz, Leylah Fernandez and of course Raducanu were all in the Round of 16.
But of the 22 American women that started in the draw, the last one standing isn’t a phenom but a veteran who lost a year to knee surgery, one who questioned whether she would ever make it back to the game she loves.
One that put in the arduous rehab to remake her body and get to running and defending even better than she did before the injury. And done it all with the same positive attitude.
“Lots of failures have taught me a lot of lessons, and the setbacks have given me a really good perspective,” Rogers said. “My Christianity’s very important to me, as well. That gives me some perspective on tough days, appreciating the sport for what it is, realizing I can do something special and inspire a lot of other people.
“That’s a big reason why I play, seeing smiles on other people’s faces. If I’m not enjoying it then why am I here? I try to bring the best energy I can every day and the best attitude, because it’s ultimately my choice to be here and do what I do.”
After knocking off Barty, next up is Raducanu, the Brit who hasn’t dropped a single set this tourney. Rogers enjoyed Saturday’s win but isn’t getting too high off taking down the world No. 1, one of the lessons she’d impart on the young phenoms if asked.
“Buckle up. It’s a long ride,” Rogers said with a knowing smile. “I’d say just trying to enjoy it as much as they can. One important thing I’ve learned is to not get too high or too low … because it’s a long season and you’re going to have some great wins and some big upsets, but you’ve got to be able to manage your emotions in a way that you can sustain over the course of a year and multiple seasons in a row.”