World No.1 Ashleigh Barty had to battle hard to keep her winning streak going, overcoming a stern challenge from Charleston resident Shelby Rogers before prevailing 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4 to reach the Volvo Car Open quarterfinals.
Last week's Miami Open champion Barty won her eighth straight match but had to struggle through a two-hour and 23-minute tussle against hometown heroine Rogers to do so.
"Shelby’s an exceptional ball-striker, she always makes you work very hard for every single point, every single match, and tonight was no different," Barty said to the press, after her win.
Barty and Rogers were squaring off for the third time this season and the fourth time overall, but it was their first meeting off of Australian soil. Barty let a service-break lead in the third set slip away before picking up the last two games and improving to 4-0 against Rogers.
"It’s strange playing someone so often, kind of quite close together," Barty said. "Sometimes it’s the way the draw works, you find yourself playing the same person over and over, and other times you won’t play them for years at a time."
Very little separated the pair with each player obtaining five service breaks in the match. Barty was nearly undone by her 53 unforced errors, but came up with clutch serving in three of her last four service games to hold on for the win. Barty had 10 aces in the clash.
Rogers broke Barty in the very first game of the match, but the top seed whisked that lead away to level things at 3-3. The duo held on through to the tiebreak, where a Barty forehand winner gave her three set points at 6-3. On the first, a Rogers backhand found the net and Barty had gritted out a one-set lead after an hour of play.
Barty was twice up a break in the second set, at 1-0 and 3-2, but Rogers stormed back with deep, powerful shots, and pushed ahead to lead 5-4. Rogers was rewarded for her persistence in the last game of the set, where Barty failed to convert a game point, then fired a series of long miscues to cede the second set to the local heroine.
In the decider, Barty again took an early 4-2 lead following two love service holds, but then allowed Rogers to surge back in after double faulting away a love break for 4-4. However, Barty rebounded in the next game, slamming a forehand winner into the corner to break for 5-4, and the World No.1 finished off the hard-fought tilt with an ace on her second match point.
Earlier in the day, a pair of Americans booked spots in the quarterfinals, as former champion Sloane Stephens and teenager Coco Gauff earned straight-set victories on Thursday afternoon.
Stephens, the 2016 Charleston titlist, improved to 6-0 against Ajla Tomljanovic with a 6-3, 6-4 victory. Stephens had 17 winners and converted four of her six break points in her 80-minute victory over Tomljanovic.
After an 0-4 start to the season, Stephens is demonstrating solid form which has propelled her into her first quarterfinal since 2019 Roland Garros without the loss of a set.
Lengthy rallies with tremendous depth filled the opening set, where Stephens obliterated the deadlock by outlasting Tomljanovic in a protracted game to go up a break at 4-3. Stephens dominated the set from there, holding at love for 5-3 and using a divine backhand winner into the corner to break again and close out the set.
Tomljanovic garnered her first break point of the match at 1-1 in the second, and after a wide forehand by Stephens, the powerful Aussie edged ahead. Tomljanovic held onto her break advantage through 4-3, but Stephens used tremendous angles to fend off a game point for 5-3, then forced errors from Tomljanovic to reach parity again at 4-4.
Stephens took command from there, holding at love for 5-4, then sweeping through a second consecutive service break to wrap up the win.
Stephens will now face No.15 seed Veronika Kudermetova in the quarterfinals. The Russian has also stormed into the elite eight without the loss of a set, which includes her 6-0, 6-3 third-round victory over qualifier Kurumi Nara on Thursday.
Prior to Stephens' match on Althea Gibson Court, an all-American affair was won by No.14 seed Gauff as she defeated Lauren Davis, 6-2, 7-6(2) to move into her first-ever WTA clay-court quarterfinal at the Volvo Car Open.
"My confidence is definitely super high," Gauff said, in her post-match press conference. "I feel like each match, I’m doing better and better, and I’m excited to hopefully keep continuing and excited to play the quarterfinal."
Playing in just her third WTA event on the dirt, World No.36 Gauff gritted through a tightly-contested second set to outlast her 79th-ranked compatriot after an hour and a half.
In the first meeting between the two Americans, Gauff had three more winners and nine fewer unforced errors than Davis, and converted seven of her nine break points.
"I think it’s just important to just continue to trust my shots and trust my strokes," Gauff said. "Even if I miss hitting a good shot, those are the misses I want to make."
Davis had won seven of her last eight meetings with her fellow Americans, including an upset of No.2 seed Sofia Kenin in the previous round, but could not get past Gauff to match her best-ever Charleston showing, a quarterfinal run in 2015.
Gauff claimed ten points in a row en route to building an early 3-0 lead, but Davis took charge in rallies during the next couple of games to trim that lead and pull back on serve. But it was Gauff who played her best as the set progressed from there, reeling off the last three games to clinch the one-set lead.
The competitive second set was a returner’s paradise, as the first four games went against serve before Gauff saved a break point and eventually punched a winning volley to hold for 3-2. But it was Davis who eked back ahead by a break at 4-3 after Gauff double faulted down break point.
Davis, though, was unable to serve out the set at either 5-4 or 6-5 as Gauff boldly broke back each time. The second set ended with three more service breaks as the pair moved into a tiebreak, where Gauff, having fallen behind 0-2, slammed a forehand winner down the line to start her run of the final seven points and sweep to victory.
17-year-old Gauff's next opponent will be No.12 seed Ons Jabeur, who staged a 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 comeback victory over Alizé Cornet.
For the second day in a row, Cornet saved multiple set points before fighting back to win an opening set. Yesterday, she saved two against No.7 seed Elise Mertens before earning a straight-set upset; against Jabeur, Cornet erased triple set point at 5-4 before notching the final three games of the opening frame.
But Jabeur would not let that missed opportunity derail her, and the Tunisian came back from an early break down in the final set to win the last four games of the match and reach her long-awaited first WTA quarterfinal of the season. Jabeur had fallen in the round of 16 in five of her previous six events this year.
Meanwhile, Gauff's doubles partner Caty McNally was unable to extend her own run into the quarterfinals, as Paula Badosa ousted McNally 6-3, 6-3. Badosa, whose best result of the season thus far is a run to the Lyon semifinals, converted five of her ten break points to collect the 76-minute win, and will now face No.1 Barty in the elite eight.