Rogers Shocks Barty At US Open

Shelby Rogers (photo: Andrew Ong/USTA)

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, September 5, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Day Six at the US Open Saturday was filled with plenty of key moments. Among them, Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini stopped the eight-match winning streak of last week’s Winston-Salem titlist Ilya Ivashka in five sets. Last year’s French Open champion Iga Swiatek survived a three-setter in beating recent Tennis In The Land champion Anett Kontaveit to reach the fourth round in all four majors this year. Jannik Sinner avoided a major collapse by taking out Gaël Monfils in five dramatic sets after leading two-sets-to-none, and Novak Djokovic did what he’s become accustomed to doing at the majors this year: win. He garnered a four-set victory over Kei Nishikori to move a round closer to capturing his 21st major title.

However, the biggest surprise was reserved for Saturday’s night session in Arthur Ashe Stadium. That’s because unseeded Shelby Rogers clinched her first win over top seed Ashleigh Barty, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (5), to punch her ticket to Monday’s fourth round. Not only was Barty the highest-ranked player that Rogers had beaten this year, it was her first victory against the current World No. 1 in six career meetings – including five this season alone. It became the subject of laughter during Rogers’ on-court interview after her triumph over the affable Aussie, whose win-loss record dropped to 42-8. Rogers improved to 23-19.

Barty suffered through an error-filled first set against the 28-year-old Rogers, the lone remaining American out of 22 who began Monday in the women’s draw inside a noisy and fan-filled Arthur Ashe Stadium. Then, she couldn’t close out her third-round match against the Mount Pleasant, S.C. native with a double-break lead in the deciding set. After the final point was played, it was the 43rd-ranked Rogers – and not Barty, who never reached a match point – who was celebrating victory at the US Open. Rogers, a quarterfinalist last year, beat Barty in two hours and nine minutes. She raised her arms in celebration and the priceless look on her face was one filled with as much laughter – ‘My god, what have I done?’ – as it was with tears of joy. Rogers and Barty shared a very cordial handshake at the net. All was good between them.

Rogers provided everyone with a stunning comeback when it seemed she was destined to go down to another defeat against Barty. However, her strategy of hitting moon balls stymied her younger, shorter opponent, who seemed to be without a big weapon to change the tempo. Barty hit five double faults and made 17 unforced errors in the opening set.

Although things improved for the two-time major champion in the middle set, Rogers never gave up, coming back from 2-5 in the final set by winning 12 of 16 points during an important stretch. She kept plugging away at Barty, finishing with 18 winners to overcome 20 unforced errors, while converting four of seven break points. Meanwhile, Barty finished with eight double faults and her 37 winners were overshadowed by 39 unforced errors.

Now, without Barty and defending champion Naomi Osaka, who was upset by Leylah Fernandez 24 hours earlier Friday night, the women’s draw going forward into the second week of the US Open is wide open. No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka is the highest-remaining seed and will face No. 15 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium on Sunday in Louis Armstrong Stadium.

In her post-match interview with ESPN‘s Pam Shriver on court, a giddy Rogers admitted after beating Barty for the first time: “I was watching a video this morning of Vitas Gerulaitis saying ‘nobody beats me 17 times in a row.’ I was only at 6.”

Then, when Shriver asked Rogers to explain her incredible comeback against Barty, she deadpanned: “I’m not sure I can.”

Later she added: “Just fighting for every point. That’s so cliché. You guys are awesome, I didn’t want to leave, I just said ‘Make balls, try to stay in this match. It can’t get any worse, you’ve lost to her every time, so try something different.’”

Next, Rogers will have an eager opponent in her fourth round match on Monday. That’s because 18-year-old teenager Emma Raducanu of Great Britain equaled her Wimbledon achievement of earlier this summer. Her 69-minute, 6-0, 6-1 thrashing of No. 41 Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain advanced her to face the surprising Rogers. The British qualifier, in her US Open debut, has not dropped a set on her way to the fourth round.

“I was playing very well, I know Sara’s an extremely tough opponent,” Raducanu said during press after her victory. Including qualifying, Raducanu has won six straight matches. “There were some really long deuce games that could have gone either way. I’m happy I could stay on it and win in the end.

“The plan was I had to hit through her, had to hit the corners. I just took the game to her and I just hit more winners than errors today.” Raducanu hit 22 winners to 16 unforced errors while winning 80 percent (24 of 30) of her first serves.

“It’s been two weeks in New York and into a third week now,” Raducanu added. “I never thought I’d be here.”

Meanwhile, Canada’s Bianca Andreescu continues to thrive in New York. She’s a remarkable 10-0 lifetime in main draw matches at the US Open following her 6-1, 6-2 win over 104th-ranked lucky loser Greet Minnen of Belgium. The No. 6 seed Andreescu hit 21 winners, committed just 11 unforced errors and lost just 11 points on serve.

Next, the 2019 US Open champion Andreescu will oppose No. 17 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece, who was impressive in her 6-4, 6-3 win over No. 10 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic. Sakkari fired nine aces, hit 19 winners and saved both break points she faced. Kvitova committed 33 unforced errors and was broken twice by Sakkari.

Other winners included: No. 11 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who defeated No. 23 seed Jessica Pegula of the United States, 6-2, 6-4; No. 7 seed Iga Swiatek of Poland, who advanced over No. 28 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3; No. 4 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, who easily beat No. 46 Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia, 6-3, 6-2; and No. 14 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who bested No. 82 Varvara Gracheva, 6-1, 6-4, in an all-Russian tussle.

Going for the Grand Slam: Djokovic moves one round closer

World No. 1 and top seed Novak Djokovic moved a round closer to becoming the first player in 52 years – since Rod Laver in 1969 – to achieve a calendar-year Grand Slam. Saturday afternoon on Arthur Ashe Stadium, the 34-year-old Serbian earned his 17th career victory against No. 56 Kei Nishikori of Japan, winning 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 in three hours and 33 minutes.

With 15 aces and 45 winners to his credit – but also 52 unforced errors – Djokovic overcame a slow start against Nishikori and reached the US Open round of 16 for the 14th time. He outpointed his opponent 150-124.

“It was a really amazing match to be a part of,” Djokovic said during his on-court interview after his victory. “Great experience. Big credit to Kei who played on a very, very high level today. I always knew that he possesses a lot of qualities. I must say that he did surprise me with his level today. He was playing very quick. It was tough. I felt like all the sets were quite close. …

“I was very pleased with the focus. Maybe at some points, I wasn’t at my best, but overall I was determined, I was concentrated.”

Next, Djokovic will face the 20-year-old American upstart Jenson Brooksby, in what New York Times tennis correspondent Christopher Clarey referred to as “an unlikely but intriguing matchup. Big underdog Brooksby will give it his rhythm-shifting all!”

The 99th-ranked wild card Brooksby rallied from down two sets to one and beat No. 21 seed Aslan Karatsev of Russia, 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, in three hours and 50 minutes on Court 17. It was his first career five-set match. The Sacramento, Calif. native became the youngest American man to reach the fourth round at the US Open since Andy Roddick reached the quarterfinals in 2002. Not only has he reached his first round of 16 at a major, Brooksby also improved his win-loss record in all competitions this year to 41-9, including 11-4 at the ATP Tour level.

“I’m proud of battling my adversity, whether it’s my own head or what’s going on out there on the court,” Brooksby said during his post-match interview. “Today was a battle obviously. I don’t know how long it was, but I thought I started out solid. Good first set. Still a couple things I could have done better.

“The break in the second. I just lost the mental energy way too much in the second set and third set. That’s not really easy to come back from, but I just told myself to keep staying in the present moment, keep breathing, keep staying positive, focus on what I’m working on out there.

“Yeah, that showed in being able to turn it around today.”

In what has been a fantastic week for #NextGenATP players, Brooksby is the fourth to reach the fourth round. He joins 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz, 20-year-old Jannik Sinner and 21-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime.

The No. 13 seed Sinner from Italy went the distance against No. 17 seed Gaël Monfils of France to win 7-6 (1), 6-2, 4-6, 4-6, 6-4. Next, he will play No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany, who beat 184th-ranked American wild card Jack Sock by retirement, ahead 3-6 6-2, 6-3, 2-1, after two hours. Meanwhile, another Italian, No. 6 seed Matteo Berrettini, also needed five sets to put away Ilya Ivashka of Belarus, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. He did so in back of an impressive output of 27 aces and 69 winners. Next, Berrettini will face the surprising 144th-ranked German qualifier Oscar Otte, who beat No. 89 Andreas Seppi of Italy, 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 7-5.

Also moving into the fourth round were No. 22 seed Reilly Opelka of the United States, who slammed 22 aces and hit 52 winners in beating No. 39 Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-4; and No. 46 Lloyd Harris of South Africa, who shot down No. 7 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, to reach the fourth round of a major for the first time.

Saturday’s US Open results

Sunday’s US Open order of play

For the record

• Emma Raducanu became the first player to make the round of 16 in her first two career Grand Slams since Jennifer Capriati in 1990.

• With her loss, reigning Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty’s win-loss record this year in three-set matches dropped to 14-3.

“Quotable …”

• “Quallies are always tough, especially the first two rounds. I wasn’t in very good physical shape. I puked on the court in both deciding tiebreaks.

“I know if I play well and my game works really good, I can make a lot of damage to no matter who is my opponent.

“Yeah, it’s tough. It was a long way, but I think it’s still not the end.”

Oscar Otte of Germany, ranked No. 144, who has advanced from qualifier to the fourth round of the 2021 US Open, after his 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 victory over 89th-ranked Andreas Seppi of Italy.

“We all try to bring the intensity on the court because the end of the day that’s why people come to see you. They want to see good tennis. They want to see you involved in the match. They want to see you bring the energy.

“Arthur Ashe is the place where you bring the energy, that’s for sure, where you feel this kind of electric atmosphere, particularly in the matches like this where it’s decided in a few points.

“Yeah, the crowd was involved. It was loud. It was nice. I thrived on that.”

– No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic on balancing a heightened intensity during his match against Kei Nishikori with a heightened playfulness with the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd.