Shelby Rogers picked up one of the biggest wins of her career at the Top Seed Open on Friday, with the unseeded American rallying from a set down to knock out first seed and tournament favorite Serena Williams.
The first set was Williams’ best of the tournament, breaking twice as she went one set up after just 26 minutes, though Rogers looked more comfortable on serve in the second set and sealed a late break to send the match to a third set.
An intense final set saw neither woman lose serve on their way to a final set tiebreak. Nerves were evidently on show from both as they traded minibreaks though it was eventually Rogers who held firm, converting a second match point at 6-5 to seal a shock 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) victory in two hours and seven minutes.
Williams had dropped the opening set in both of her matches in Lexington prior to this but any thoughts of a similarly sluggish start were quickly dispelled, as she eased to a quick 3-0 lead. Rogers was able to hold for 3-1 but could not get close to her compatriot, and a second break allowed Williams to serve out the opener in less than half an hour.
The top seed had looked incredibly sharp in the opener though there were signs early on in the second that her level was dipping slightly, with a few errors coming from the forehand side. Serving first, Rogers was able to steady her serve and put herself in the perfect to strike late on. In a set of very few chances Rogers forced two set points as Williams served to stay in the set at 4-5, and though they were saved she was able to take a third to force a decider.
Rogers started the decider brightly, forcing an early break point, though Williams came through to hold for 1-1. Williams herself had an opportunity at 2-2 as she built a 0-30 lead, though her compatriot dug herself out of that hole, with both women facing no further trouble on serve as a tiebreaker ensued. Four of the first six points went against serve in a nervy breaker though it was Rogers who proved strongest, forcing errors from her opponent at 5-4 and then on her second match point to seal an impressive victory.
After such a one-sided first set very few would have predicted such a comeback from Rogers, who has struggled immensely with injury throughout the past few seasons. She will face Jill Teichmann for a place in the final, whilst Williams will look to get more practice in before the Western and Southern Open.