Rogers At Home Playing The Volvo Car Open

Shelby Rogers (photo: Volvo Car Open/Chris Smith)

CHARLESTON, S.C./WASHINGTON, April 6, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Shelby Rogers has come a long way since being an eight-year-old ball kid in 2001 at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston. Twenty years later, she’s ranked 52nd in the world – 10th among Americans – and has become an accomplished pro on the WTA tour.

However, the Mount Pleasant, S.C., native has always maintained a fondness for home. And, the Volvo Car Open is where Rogers has shared some of her greatest memories in her home state of South Carolina, including a quarterfinal final run in 2017 with victories over Madison Keys and Naomi Osaka, and in winning an emotional first-round match on stadium court at LTP-Daniel Island in 2019 against Evgeniya Rodina after coming back from knee surgery.

“It’s just a lot of years of hard work,” Rogers said Monday during a virtual get-together with media covering this year’s Volvo Car Open, “and dreaming of playing on that court.”

The 5-foot-9-inch, 28-year-old Rogers, who has won 251 matches as a tour regular since 2013 and earned more than $3.2 million in prize money, began her quest for a first Volvo Car Open title – which would also be her first WTA tour-level title – against 55th-ranked tour veteran Kristina Mladenovic of France. Rogers, who is twice a quarterfinalist this year, finished strong in both sets and won 6-4, 6-3 in one hour and 39-minutes for her 11th victory of the season in 16 outings. She put away the victory on her third match-point opportunity to advance to Wednesday’s second round against fellow American and No. 13 seed Amanda Anisimova.

Rogers won the 49-minute first set 6-4 on her second set-point try, thanks to a double fault by Mladenovic. She served three aces and hit 11 winners while taking advantage of 18 unforced errors by the brittle Frenchwoman. Next, Rogers jumped ahead 2-0 at the start of the second set by capitalizing on Mladenovic’s ninth double fault, then saved three break points en route to holding her serve for a 3-0 lead. If it seemed everything was going Rogers’ way, that’s because it was. From there, she dropped just five more points on her serve and closed out the victory with great confidence.

Rogers finished with five aces, hit 22 winners and made only 14 unforced errors. She broke Mladenovic’s serve three times in seven tries while only being broken once. Meanwhile, Mladenovic double-faulted 13 times and committed 32 unforced errors, which overshadowed her 20 winners. Rogers outpointed Mladenovic 78-60.

During her virtual press conference following her victory, Tennis TourTalk asked Rogers what she was most proud of beating Mladenovic. She responded: “I think I’m happy with the way I closed out both sets because [Kristina] definitely raised her level at the end of both and really tried to make it a tough battle. Say, if she breaks me in that last game, then we’re back on serve and who knows what can happen. She could get a little extra confident and make it a really tricky match. So, I think getting [the win] in two sets was really big and I’m really proud of myself for closing it out.”

The warm and genial Rogers admitted Monday that she benefited greatly from last year’s five-month lockdown of the WTA tour that resulted from the global pandemic. Being at home, she said, gave her a chance to work toward her college degree in psychology from Indiana University (which she will attain next month), attend Bible study classes, improve her cooking skills and to spend a lot of time with family and friends.

“I had more time in general and it felt kind of nice. Overall, not traveling for that long, I was able to get in the rhythm of a routine and to live a normal life. I had a lot of fun,” Rogers said.

Because of last year’s hiatus, which caused the cancellation of the 2020 Volvo Car Open, Rogers suggested there wasn’t a word to describe how much she missed playing in her favorite tournament. She said: “I absolutely adore this tournament and a lot of other players do as well. It’s such a player’s favorite. I’m thankful to be back this year. …

“I have a lot of goals [I want] to achieve and a lot of things I haven’t checked off yet. So, we’re just getting started.”

Tuesday’s Volvo Car Open results

Wednesday’s Volvo Car Open order of play

Around the Volvo Car Open

• No. 3 seed Petra Kvitova, who accepted a wild card to compete this week in Charleston, hit five aces and struck 21 winners during her 7-6 (4), 6-2 win over 187th-ranked qualifier Storm Sanders of Australia. Kvitova, who converted two of four break points and did not face any break points, outpointed her opponent 69-60. Next, Kvitova will face either Leylah Fernandez of Canada or Danka Kovinic of Montenegro in Thursday’s third round.

• No. 6 seed Garbiñe Muguruza garnered her WTA-leading 21st victory of the season with a 6-1, 6-3 win over 159th-ranked qualifier Magdalena Frech of Poland. The Spaniard hit 24 winners to 20 unforced errors and broke Frech four times in 10 opportunities. Meanwhile, Frech committed 17 unforced errors and hit just six winners during the 70-minute match.

“Honestly, I’m happy with the win in general because I didn’t have a lot of expectations with coming from hard courts and changing quickly,” Muguruza told Tennis TourTalk. “It’s not the clay that I’m used to. There are some differences – not big but still some differences. I’m happy I got this win, I fought hard and my spirit was high throughout the whole match.”

On Thursday, Muguruza will take on No. 11 seed Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan, who beat 88th-ranked fellow Kazakh Zarina Diyas, 6-2, 6-2.

• No. 72 Leylah Fernandez of Canada advanced to the second round with an upset of No. 16 seed Zhang Shuai of China, 6-3, 6-1. Next, she will face 91st-ranked Danka Kovinic of Montenegro, who beat 214th-ranked qualifier Gabriela Talaba of Romania, 7-6 (2), 6-4. Fernandez was asked by Tennis TourTalk to describe the transition of going from hard courts to clay. “It’s definitely a little bit hard, but I know the balls are going to come a little bit slower and I’ll be sliding a little bit more. I just have to be ready for that extra ball coming back,” she said.

• 2016 Volvo Car Open titlist Sloane Stephens of the United States, ranked 57th, defeated 147th-ranked lucky loser Wang Xinyu of China, 6-2, 6-4, in 82 minutes to advance against No. 8 seed and defending Volvo Car Open champion Madison Keys on Wednesday evening. Stephens outpointed Wang 73-55 playing on her favorite surface. “I’m trying to get my season going,” Stephens said during an on-court interview after her victory, just her second win of 2021. “I love Charleston and love playing here. I have amazing memories here, so it’s nice to get this win.”

• No. 12 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia beat No. 99 Martina Trevisan of Italy, 6-2, 6-2, to move into the second round against 216th-ranked wild card Hailey Baptiste of the United States. Baptiste beat fellow American and 155th-ranked lucky loser Caroline Dolehide, 6-3, 6-3. No. 47 Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia advanced to the second round with a 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 75 Anastasia Potapova of Russia. Next, Sevastova will face 118th-ranked American Caty McNally. Also, No. 110 Liudmila Samsonova of Russia defeated No. 86 Nao Hibino of Japan, 6-2, 6-1, and next will play No. 14 seed Coco Gauff of the United States, who beat No. 113 Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, 6-3, 6-0, in one hour and eight minutes, Tuesday evening.

What they’re telling Tennis TourTalk

Leylah Fernandez on the feeling of arriving this year in Charleston having recently won her first WTA tour-level title: “It feels good. I’m happy to be here playing for the first time in this tournament. I’ve heard so many great things. So, I’m happy I can come in with a lot of confidence and, hopefully, the momentum will keep going from Monterrey up to now.”

What they’re sharing on social media

Belinda Bencic / One of my favorite tournaments

Petra Kvitova / First victory on green clay