NEW YORK – World number 1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia had beaten American Shelby Rogers five times – four of those games are coming this season – and entered the third round of the US Open on Saturday night. So Rogers decided to change her game to 43rd place.
She hit moon shots. She changed her pace. She threw some high balls into it. And at the end of the tie-break in set three, after Barty served twice for the match, it was Rogers who stayed on the court and shook his head in disbelief after beating Barty 6-2, 1-6 . 7-6 (7-5).
Words fail when Rogers was asked to explain how she did it.
“I’m not sure I can explain it,” she said in a court interview. “I just said let the balls try to stay in this match, it can’t get any worse. You lost to her every time. Try something different. “
Not long ago, Rogers, who is 28 years old, wasn’t sure she would return to the field. She missed the 2018 season because of a knee operation that was followed by a long period of rehab.
“Six months after my surgery, I remember telling my PT that I’m not sure I’ll ever play again,” she said after the game on ESPN. “So this is very special to me and doing it in New York is amazing.”
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Barty had an unusually sloppy first set, making 17 easy mistakes compared to Roger’s three and five double mistakes. The Australian slowed Rogers’ momentum briefly in the second and won this set 6-1. After Barty built a 5-2 lead in the third set, he had the opportunity to end it and seemed to be working in cruise control.
But Rogers scrambled back point by point to interrupt Barty twice on the way to a riveting tie-break in the third set. She won it with two forced mistakes from Barty. It was her first career win against a number 1 in the world. Rogers is the only American left in the singles.
“I feel like you guys picked who you want to win,” Rogers said of the crowd she was almost ready to win towards the end. “So thank you for choosing me tonight. You are in control of the tournament. “
Follow Alex Coffey on Twitter @byalexcoffey