NEW YORK - Shelby Rogers kept the home hopes alive at the US Open, as the Charleston native manufactured a stunning third-set comeback to stun No.1 Ashleigh Barty 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(5) in the third round to advance to her second straight Round of 16 in New York. A quarterfinalist last year, the 28-year-old played a disciplined match to earn her first win in six matches against the World No.1, coming back from a double-break down in the final set to steal the win. The victory is Rogers' first over a Top 10 player since defeating Serena Williams last year in Lexington and her first-ever win over a reigning World No.1.
In their fifth meeting in the 2021 season alone, Rogers was looking to tally her first win over the Australian. Rogers had reason to believe an upset was possible. Rogers had played Barty close twice this year, taking her to a match-tiebreak at the Yarra Valley Classic in February before losing 7-5, 2-6, 10-4. On the green clay of Charleston, their Round of 16 duel came down to the wire, with Barty edging it 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4.
"I think tonight going on the court I told myself I didn't want to lose the same way I lost the last five times against her," Rogers said. "I just tried to do things a little bit differently. In the first set I mixed in some high balls, I was super patient with her slice because she's not going to miss one very often. I know that very well."
There were early signs of trouble for Barty, who fired four double-faults in her second service game to give Rogers the early break at 2-1. With Barty struggling to find her range on her serve and off the ground - the Wimbledon champion hit 17 unforced errors in the opening set - Rogers cruised to break Barty twice and seal the first set 6-2 after 32 minutes. She did not face a break point in the set.
Barty immediately righted the ship in the second set. After coming through two tight service games to hold, Barty broke Rogers for a 3-1 lead and never looked back. After hitting 17 unforced errors in the first set, Barty hit just 7 in the second set, while firing 13 winners. As she recognized Rogers opting for a more defensive gameplan, Barty found her range and rhythm, finding good purchase when she patiently built points and extended rallies.
"In the second and third, she definitely raised her level, as she does," Rogers said. "I mean, she's the No.1 player in the world for a reason. But I started wanting to hit the ball a little bit harder, find some winners if I could. That's the tennis I like to play. That's what she wants me to do. She wants to redirect and finesse me around the court, wait for me to miss."
Turning Point: Barty continued her progress through the final set, building a 5-2, double-break lead. But as the World No.1 stood just four points from the Round of 16, the unforced errors began to creep in again. Serving at 5-3, 15-0, Barty misfired on three consecutive unforced errors - a forehand, a backhand, and a double-fault - and Rogers broke as Barty mishit yet another forehand at 30-40.
After Rogers hold from 30-all in the next game by out-rallying Barty with a forehand winner and then closing with an unreturned serve, the partisan crowd on Arthur Ashe Stadium were on their feet. Feeding off their energy and buoyed by Barty's failed attempt to close out the match, Rogers doubled down on her defensive efforts. As Barty tried to serve out the match for a second time at 5-4, Rogers made her intentions known, chasing down every ball and baiting Barty to go for less margin than she was comfortable with.
As Barty served at deuce, Rogers won one of the longest rallies of the match - an 18-shot all-court exchange - that ended as Barty misfired a forehand. On her second break point of the game, Rogers converted, fending off a 107 m.p.h first serve. Barty misfired on another forehand off the return and the comeback was on. Rogers had leveled to 5-5.
After an exchange of holds at 30, Barty and Rogers readied for the deciding tiebreak. Barty came into the match with a 14-2 record in three-set matches this season, while Rogers was 4-8. The tense tiebreak rolled along on serve, with Rogers coming up with the defensive answers to Barty's craft. Serving at 1-2, Rogers fended off a series of biting Barty backhand slices down the line to get the better of the No.1 in a 19-shot rally. In fact, Rogers would win all three points in the tiebreak that lasted over 10 shots, reversing the trend that saw Barty get the match on her terms in the second set.
At 5-5 in the tiebreak, Barty finally blinked. Unable to summon her formidable first serve, Barty missed a forehand off a driven forehand return from Rogers to give the American the first match point of the night. With the biggest win of her career on her racquet, Rogers found a 105 m.p.h first serve wide that Barty could not get back. After 2 hours and 8 minutes, Rogers' look of complete disbelief said it all.
Barty breaks it down: "The 5-2 service game, I played a pretty poor service game. Shelby had a lot of looks at second serves. In the end, I think that game put some oxygen into her lungs. At the 5-4 game, we played some long points. I didn't play too many bad points. Shelby came up with some really good stuff when it mattered most. A forehand lob off a chisel at 30-All, you tip your hat and say, Too good.
"I think there are a few things tonight I'm happy to accept. There are some things I'm disappointed in, without a doubt. In the end, I just didn't quite have enough in the tank. I've left everything out on the court this year. It was no different tonight. I just didn't quite have enough to get over the line, which is disappointing but we move on. I sleep well tonight knowing I gave everything I could; it just wasn't quite enough."
Rogers on getting her first win over Barty: "I guess I have to thank her for teaching me a lot of lessons. I journal quite a bit, take notes on players, scout, things like this. Half my book is on Ash at this point, you know. It's the same thing: She doesn't miss a ball.
"I think what I've learned most from her is that she's No.1 for a reason. It was going to take everything I had tonight to beat her. I gave everything I had and got the win. That's what it comes down to."
Stat of the Match: After losing the first set, Barty won 13 of the 17 rallies that went 8 or more shots until she served for the match at 5-2. From there, Rogers won 9 of the 12 remaining extended rallies, including all three that were played in the deciding tiebreak.
"I was just happy and really proud of myself tonight for problem-solving, if you will, maybe doing some things I'm not super comfortable with, like hitting some high balls like I'm back in the 12s," Rogers said. "Playing defense, honestly. It ended up working somehow."
Next Up: Rogers will face 18-year-old Emma Raducanu, the British qualifier who is into her second straight Round of 16 at a major, having done so in her scintillating major debut at Wimbledon. Raducanu has not lost a set in qualifying or main draw this week and lost just one game to Sara Sorribes Tormo in the third round. This will be the first meeting between the pair.
"She's fearless," Rogers said, when asked about facing the Brit. "She is playing very well and she's inspired. It's going to be a battle. I am ready for it.
"It's really cool to see the younger generation coming up in this tournament, getting some big wins. It's really impressive. I'm going to have to bring my best tennis again in a different way I think, though. That's the cool thing about tennis, you have to adjust every single time and make a new strategy."
Shelby Rogers and Ash Barty crossed paths en route to their press conferences, shared a hug and some laughs.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) September 5, 2021
Shelby on Ash: “Honestly, I could do this for another 20 minutes.”#USOpen pic.twitter.com/3XHRPivIfu
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova ends a decade-long drought in New York
French Open runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova may have been late getting to New York, but she's making sure she's extending her stay as long as possible. The No.14 seed overcame last-minute visa issues and is now into the Round of 16 at the US Open for the first time since she made the quarterfinals in 2011. Pavlyuchenkova came through an all-Russian battle, defeating Varvara Gracheva 6-1, 6-4 in the third round to advance.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova turns up the jets on this point 💨— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 5, 2021
The No. 14 seed is a set away from Round 4. pic.twitter.com/0aCfkykOMv
Stat of the Match: Playing to advance to the US Open's second week for just the third time, Pavlyuchenkova fired 23 winners to 27 unforced errors and went unbroken for the match, saving all five break points faced.
Next Up: The Russian will face No.4 Karolina Pliskova in the fourth round. The Czech rebounded from her match-point saving win over Amanda Anisimova to defeat Ajla Tomljanovic in a clinical two sets. Pliskova leads the head-to-head 6-2 but has not beaten the Russian since 2018. Pavlyuchenkova has won their last two matches.