CHARLESTON, SC, USA -- No.10 seed and 2017 Charleston finalist Jelena Ostapenko pulled off a stunning comeback at the Volvo Car Open on Wednesday, coming back from a 5-1 final-set deficit and saving a match point to overcome hometown favorite Shelby Rogers, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), and reach the third round.
"I knew, like, tennis is the game where everything can turn the other way, so I was just trying to fight until the last point," Ostapenko told the press, following her ferocious fightback.
2017 French Open champion Ostapenko had won her only previous meeting against Rogers in straight sets, at Rome in 2017, but this time around was much more challenging. The Latvian had to come back from the very brink of defeat before outlasting the unranked American wild card after two and a half hours of play.
Very little separated the two big hitters in the clash. Each player broke her opponent seven times, but it was Ostapenko who had 37 winners to only 30 unforced errors. Rogers, in only her second match back on tour after a nearly 13-month injury layoff, had 26 winners and 28 unforced errors.
"Today I was not trying to hit it as strong as possible," Ostapenko stated. "I was trying to make the rallies longer. So I felt it was more effective for me, the longer the rally was, the more possibility it was for me to win it. And when I had good rally, just tried to play aggressive."
"I still have to go to attack," Ostapenko continued. "Otherwise it most probably will not bring me the results that I did. But, of course, I don't have to rush with the points. I just have to go from the comfort of a ball, like to change down the line or to hit winner. But most of the time I realize that when the rallies are long, most of them I win."
In the round of 16, Ostapenko will face No.8 seed Madison Keys of the United States. Former Charleston finalist Keys defeated Tatjana Maria in Wednesday's evening session. Keys won their only prior encounter, a three-set quarterfinal on the grass of Birmingham in 2016.
Rogers got off to a flying start in the match, breaking Ostapenko with a return winner in the first game. The American withstood a break point in the following game, erasing it with a backhand winner, before holding for 2-0.
After a difficult hold for Ostapenko, reaching 2-1 while saving two break points, the Latvian got back level at 2-2, breaking Rogers at love. Big hitting off of the Latvian’s forehand helped her edge ahead 3-2, but her next service game was less successful, as too many unforced errors let Rogers reclaim the break advantage, leading 4-3.
Serving for the set at 5-4, Rogers squandered two set points, one with a double fault, and Ostapenko used deep hitting from her backhand to set up a break point. But one of Ostapenko’s 17 unforced errors in the set caused that opportunity to be lost, and Rogers recovered in the game, obtaining the one-set lead with a cracking ace.
The second set, however, went the way of Ostapenko. After an exchange of breaks to 3-2, the Latvian claimed the pivotal break in that game, reaching break point with a backhand winner down the line, and converting that chance with a forehand crosscourt winner.
Ostapenko saved a break point en route to holding for 5-2, and earned an opportunity to level the tilt at 5-3. There, Ostapenko blasted a forehand winner to clinch double set point, and though Rogers saved the first with a winning forehand return crosscourt, the former French Open champion converted the second with a powerful forehand into the corner.
But Ostapenko’s momentum dissipated at the start of the decider. Rogers staved off two break points in the opening game, blasting three massive serves in a row to get the hold for 1-0. The American then kept her returns solid while Ostapenko fired a number of miscues to drop serve. After a love hold by Rogers to jump ahead 3-0, the American seemed to be in control.
Rogers broke twice more to lead 5-1, and though Ostapenko got one break back to serve at 5-2, the Latvian found herself in trouble in that game. Rogers clobbered a return winner to bring up match point, but the American sent the next return into the net to give Ostapenko a lifeline and allow her to hold for 5-3.
It was then Ostapenko’s turn to go on a tear, crushing groundstrokes, particularly from the backhand side, while Rogers’s errors mounted. Ostapenko broke Rogers twice in a row to put up a five-game winning streak and serve for the match at 6-5. But the No.10 seed could not finish the job, and swiftly dropped serve to queue up a final-set tiebreak.
A run of seven straight points against serve in the breaker concluded with Ostapenko up 5-4, following a backhand winner down the line. Finally, Ostapenko won another point on serve with a forehand winner to garner two match points at 6-4. On her first chance, Ostapenko polished off a rally with a backhand crosscourt winner, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.