NEW YORK – Shelby Rogers, the 28-year old American who pulled off the biggest upset of the U.S. Open so far by beating No. 1 seed Ash Barty on Saturday night, returns to Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday afternoon against the British teenager Emma Raducanu.
Who is Shelby Rogers? Here are five things to know.
Rogers’ first big run in a major was arguably more surprising than this one. In 2016, she was already a six-year tour veteran when she showed up at Roland Garros ranked outside the top 100 but pulled off a series of improbable upsets, knocking out No. 17 seed Karolina Pliskova in the first round and No. 10 seed Petra Kvitova in the third round by one of the oddest scorelines you’ll see in tennis: 6-0, 6-7, 6-0. After beating No. 25 seed Irina-Camelia Begu to reach the quarterfinal, she called herself a “tear machine” because of her propensity to cry after every win. Rogers’ magic finally ran out against eventual champion Garbiñe Muguruza, 7-5, 6-3.
Rogers did not get past the third round at her next 11 majors before getting to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open last year. Again, she beat Kvitova on her way there and also upset No. 11 seed Elena Rybakina in the second round.
“I think one important thing that I have learned in my career is to not get too high or too low every week with the result,” she said. “Because it’s a long season and you’re going to have some great wins and some big upsets and things like this, but you’ve got to be able to manage your emotions in a way that you can sustain over the course of a year and multiple seasons in a row.”
Rogers has dealt with plenty of health setbacks in her career, which have often been followed by long stretches of discouraging results. In 2015 and 2016, she dealt with a torn MCL that stemmed from a fall on a grass court in Birmingham, England, and was often losing in the first round of tournaments or to players ranked well below her.
Then at Indian Wells in 2018, she felt significant pain in her left knee during a match against Caroline Dolehide. The diagnosis was serious: ruptured cartilage, which required surgery and led Rogers to question whether she’d be able to return to the tour. But Rogers did make it back in 2019, playing her first official match in more than a year at the Volvo Car Open in her hometown of Charleston.
By that point, Rogers’ ranking had slipped outside the top 500, which means pretty much starting over. That September, she won an ITF-level tournament to boost her into the top 250 and ended the year at No. 177. Another ITF-level title last February got her close to breaking back into the top 100, and the run at last year’s U.S. Open boosted her enough to get direct entry status into the Grand Slams this year where she’s done well, making the round of 16 in Australia and the third round at Wimbledon.
“Lots of failures I think have taught me a lot of lessons, and the setbacks have given me a really good perspective,” she said.
When she was 17, Rogers decided to turn pro instead of going the college route. But part of the deal she made with her mother was that she would eventually get her degree.
“She was a little bit nervous that her daughter was not going to college,” Rogers said.
In 2016, Rogers began to take classes through a program the WTA set up for players to attend college online while they’re pursuing their tennis career.
Rogers finished that program in May, receiving a degree in psychology from Indiana University East. At the tournament last month in Cincinnati, the tour held a graduation ceremony for Rogers and two other players who also completed their bachelors degrees through the program.
Between practicing, playing and travel, Rogers said she had to very carefully manage her time to get the coursework done.
“I tried to stay a little bit ahead so I wouldn’t be too stressed,” she said. “If I had a long match like last night or today and then I had to take an exam, that wasn’t always the greatest thing. It was definitely a lot of planning, especially when you’re in different time zones and the Wi-Fi isn’t great and you’re contacting your professor saying, ‘I’m on a plane all day, I’m going to try.’”
The last time the U.S. won the Fed Cup, an international team competition that dates back to 1963, Rogers was in the highly pressurized position of playing the deciding doubles match in the final against Belarus — on the road, no less, in Minsk. With the competition tied at two wins apiece, Rogers teamed with Coco Vandeweghe to beat Aryna Sabalenka and Aliaksandra Sasnovich, 6-3, 7-6 to bring the Fed Cup to America for the first time since 2000.
Rogers has said that hockey is her favorite sport behind tennis, and she started attending Tampa Bay Lightning games when she trained at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. During an interview with the Lightning’s web site, she said her favorite piece of team paraphernalia is a Stanley Cup championship water bottle that she brings to practice, often to irritate her coach who roots for the Florida Panthers.