NEW YORK — World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia had beaten American Shelby Rogers five times — four of those matches coming this season — entering their match on Saturday night in the third round of the U.S. Open. So, Rogers, ranked No 43, decided to change her game.
She hit moon shots. She mixed up her pace. She threw in some high balls. And by the end of the third-set tiebreaker, after Barty had served for the match twice, it was Rogers who remained on the court, shaking her head in disbelief, with a smile, after defeating Barty 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (7-5).
When asked to explain how she pulled it off, Rogers was at a loss for words.
“I’m not sure I can (explain it),” she said in an on-court interview. “I just said make balls try to stay in this match, it can’t get any worse. You’ve lost to her every time. Try something different.”
There was a time, not that long ago, that Rogers, who is 28-years-old, wasn’t sure she’d get back on the court again. She missed the 2018 season due to knee surgery, which was followed by a long rehab period.
“Six months after my surgery, I remember telling my PT I’m not sure if I’ll ever play again,” she said on ESPN following the match. “So this is extra special for me and to do it in New York is incredible."
MAGIC NUMBER: Djokovic moves within four wins of calendar Grand Slam
Barty had an uncharacteristically sloppy first set, making 17 unforced errors to Roger’s three and five double faults. The Australian briefly shut down Rogers’ momentum in the second, taking that set 6-1. After compiling a 5-2 lead in the third set, Barty had the opportunity to close it out, and appeared to be working in cruise control.
But Rogers climbed back, point by point, to break Barty twice en route to a riveting third-set tiebreaker. She won it on a pair of forced errors by Barty. It was her first career win versus a world No. 1. Rogers is the only American woman left in the singles draw.
“I feel like you guys have picked who you want to win,” Rogers said of the crowd, which was nearly willing her to win towards the end. “So thank you for picking me tonight. You guys are in control of the tournament.”
Follow Alex Coffey on Twitter @byalexcoffey