Shelby Rogers Looks Even Better Than Her Old Self


BY JAMES BECK

Is Shelby Rogers really back?

It certainly looked that way for the hometown girl during Monday’s opening round of the Credit One Charleston Open. Rogers was superb on the green clay. She’s never hit better than in her 6-1, 6-1 win over fellow American Claire Liu.

It wasn’t that the 23-year-old Liu played that badly. Rogers simply played that well. She was at the top of her game.

Yes, at 31 years old, and now a traveling married woman.

All of the injuries haven’t stopped Rogers from trying to be the best tennis player she can be.

She was only in the main draw because of a wild card that came her way. The fact she’s a Charleston girl and grew up on the courts of the old Family Circle Cup complex on Daniel Island and the ones at nearby LTP Mount Pleasant didn’t hurt.

Rogers had notched her first win on the WTA Tour in 11 months just a couple of weeks earlier in Miami. Last July, she had undergone a second knee surgery.

Ranked as high as No. 30 in the world just two years ago and having been a quarterfinalist at both the 2020 U.S. Open and the 2016 French Open, she could have been down in the dumps these days about her tennis game.

But she’s not. She’s chipper and articulate, and a prize catch for any interview session.

“I get nervous before every match I play, but tonight I actually felt really excited. I felt free out there. I wasn’t trying to put too many expectations on myself. I just wanted to really soak up the moment and try to enjoy competing as best as I could, fight for every point, try to play the way that I like to play and how I play my best tennis,” she said.

“I think something I’ve really tried to focus on this comeback, the last few matches I played is smiling a little bit more on the court.”

She’s now always looking on the bright side of her tennis career. And Charleston has been a huge part of it.

“I think without this tournament here, I would not have been exposed to professional women’s tennis,” she said after her win over Liu.

“I was able to have the chance to be a ball girl (for WTA Tour events on Daniel Island). I was able to be up close and personal with professional tennis players, have conversations with them, see how they train, see how they practice.

“It made it more tangible for me. It wasn’t something I just watched on TV and it seemed so far away from me. It doesn’t feel like it’s a dream that could never come true.”

Once the diamond of Charleston  tennis, Rogers has had to move over  bit for the emergence of young Emma Navarro, who has so quickly charged up to the 20th spot on the WTA Tour rankings.

“It’s so great to see, again, Emma coming through. I’ve always said I never wanted to be the best player from here because then we’re doing something wrong. Right?

“We want to keep getting better and better and pushing and seeing more players come out of here . . . it makes my heart really happy.”

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.





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