NEW YORK, NY, USA -- It came down to the wire, but Shelby Rogers continued a stellar US Open for the Americans on Sunday, as she saved four match points en route to upsetting No.6 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, 7-6(5), 3-6, 7-6(6), to reach the quarterfinals at her home Grand Slam event for the first time.
"Day 72 in the bubble," Rogers joked to laughter from the media during her post-match press conference. "It's been a long time here in New York. I'm happy to be sticking around for some more."
World No.93 Rogers had won a topsy-turvy 6-0, 6-7(3), 6-0 encounter against two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova in their only previous meeting, a third-round match at 2016 Roland Garros, where Rogers eventually made her heretofore only Grand Slam quarterfinal.
Once more, another hard-hitting win over Kvitova helped to propel Rogers to her second major quarterfinal, as she locked down a well-earned victory after a grueling two hours and 39 minutes of play. The American saved three match points on her serve at 5-4 in the final set, then saved another on the vaunted Kvitova serve at 6-5 in the decisive tiebreak.
"The tiebreaker, the whole match actually, was a little bit of a roller coaster for both of us," said Rogers. "The first set, you know, a tiebreak. [Kvitova] upped her level a little bit in the second there. I was up a break in the third, she breaks back. She's just hitting missiles. She served unbelievable.
"To get that double-fault there in the [third-set] breaker, a little luck was on my side today I think. I just kept trying to hang in there and defend her balls, take care of my serve there in the third after I got broken. Thankfully somehow got it done."
The result continues a sturdy vein of form for Rogers, who defeated Serena Williams last month in Lexington, and notched wins over No.11 seed Elena Rybakina and fellow American Madison Brengle in her last two matches in Flushing Meadows.
The stellar result is Rogers’s best at a major since her knee surgery in 2018, which kept her completely out of action for a full year before she made a return at her hometown event in Charleston last season.
"I knew I could always do it," said Rogers, when asked about returning to a Grand Slam quarterfinal. "It was a matter of head down, working hard to get back to that point. Being here, I want to push past it, really see what I'm made of."
Bruising groundstrokes and serves were the order of the day, and Kvitova led the stat sheet with 58 winners to Rogers's 26, and four breaks of serve for the Czech compared to two for the American. But the match was won in the two tiebreaks, where Rogers used her mentality to steel herself in the tight moments and squeak out the two sets she needed.
One of four Americans to reach the round of 16 in the women’s singles draw, Rogers joined her compatriot Jennifer Brady in the quarterfinals. No.28 seed Brady won her match over No.8 seed Petra Martic of Croatia earlier on Sunday.
In the elite eight, Rogers will square off against either 2018 champion and No.4 seed Naomi Osaka of Japan or 14th-seeded Anett Kontaveit of Estonia.
"Both have a lot of experience in later rounds in tournaments, especially Naomi," said Rogers. "She's going to be very comfortable on the court if she does make it through. Both have big serves, big groundstrokes. I'll definitely have to be ready. I think I got my dose of defending some hardballs today."
Kvitova found herself in danger from the hard-hitting Rogers in the first game of the affair, as the American had a break point instantly before the Czech finished off the game with back-to-back aces. Rogers continued to match Kvitova power for power, and the American earned the first break with penetrating groundstrokes to lead 4-3.
The Czech, though, struck back right away, as she hit a hot patch with her lefty forehand to claw the break back and get level at 4-4. The duo held through to the tiebreak, where the Czech began to misfire off the forehand, giving Rogers a 4-1 lead. Kvitova courageously pulled back to 5-5, but Rogers put the hammer down, slamming a forehand winner at the end of a rally to clinch the breaker 7-5.
It was Kvitova, though, who took control of the second set. Once the Czech survived two break points in her opening service game of the frame, holding for 1-1 with a crosscourt forehand winner, she started to crack open a commanding lead, clinching a 2-1 lead by breaking with a backhand winner.
Kvitova had no problems on serve for the remainder of the second set, as she swept to a 5-3 lead with minimal fuss. Rogers, serving to stay in the set, fell behind double set point, and on Kvitova’s second opportunity, the Czech slammed a deep return to set up an overhead winner and tie up the match at one set apiece.
The third set was replete with twists and turns, starting with an immediate loss of service by Kvitova, which ended with a double fault. The Czech, though, leveled the decider at 2-2, cracking a backhand winner crosscourt to seal that game.
Kvitova’s first big chance to close out the win came at 5-4, as misfires long by Rogers gave the sixth seed three match points. Rogers saved each chance, with a good serve, a deep forehand, and a brave pass respectively, as the American came up with the goods to survive that game and stay level with the two-time Grand Slam titlist.
A love hold for 6-5 by Kvitova failed to faze Rogers, as the unseeded player busted open a rally on game point with a divine dropshot winner, and queued up the decisive tiebreak.
The pair blasted their sterling groundstrokes at each other with aplomb, staying mostly even through the breaker, but ultimately Kvitova earned a fourth match point at 6-5 after a rally was ended with a wide Rogers backhand.
Kvitova, though, had been losing precision and velocity on her serve in the breaker, and threw in a shocking double fault on her sole match point on her serve to make it 6-6. With new life, Rogers earned her first match point at 7-6 after a netted Kvitova forehand. All of a sudden, it was over in a flash, as Kvitova misfired long on the return and Rogers had gritted out a gutsy win.