Shelby Rogers, the tearful Cinderella of Roland Garros and the first American woman not called Williams to make the French Open last-eight since 2005, is determined that sudden fame will not be her undoing.
Rogers takes on Spanish fourth seed Garbine Muguruza for a semi-final place today having defied her modest world ranking of 108 to see off a series of big hitters. First up in her firing line was Czech 17th seed Karolina Pliskova, then experienced Russian Elena Vesnina, followed by two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, the 10th seed.
On Sunday, the 23-year-old from Charleston became just the ninth woman outside the top 100 to make the quarter-finals since 1983 when she beat Romania’s 25th seed Irina-Camelia Begu in straight sets. It was a victory greeted with tears on Suzanne Lenglen court where she quickly had to borrow a handkerchief from TV interviewer and ex-Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli.
“100% tears all the time. Sad, happy, hungry, reading a book, watching a movie. They flow very easily,” said Rogers. “Those little puppy commercials, adopt a puppy. No, change the channel. Can’t do it.” Rogers, who had never made it past the third round at a major before coming to Paris, is regarded as one of the nicest players on the tour. “Who I am is what got me here, and I can’t change it. It’s who I am, so... I hope everyone likes it,” she said. Her fellow players are on board. “You’re such a gem @Shelby_Rogers_ !! There’s not a single person that deserves this more! #proud,” tweeted fellow US player Sloane Stephens after win.
Rogers is already guaranteed a leap in the rankings to around 59 which would be a career high. She will also pocket over $300,000 for making the last eight. That’s five times what she has made this year and a stark contrast to the $390 she earned when losing second round at a low-key event in Florida in January.
It’s a staggering turnaround for a player who hadn’t won a main draw match on the WTA Tour since March. That modest record meant that she struggled to make the main draw in Paris, just squeezing in as the last direct acceptance when the cut-off fell.
Lindsay Davenport, 11 years ago, was the last American woman outside of Serena and Venus Williams to get this far in Paris. Since that time, the pressure on young American players to prove their credentials as standard-bearers once the Williams’ era ends has proved to be too much of a burden.
Melanie Oudin was hailed as a future star when she reached the US Open quarter-finals in 2009. These days, Oudin is ranked 336 and eking out a meagre living. In March, she picked up a cheque for just $68 when she fell in qualifying in an ITF claycourt event in Florida.
Rogers and Oudin are close friends. “It was a time we needed an American player to grab on to. She was so awesome, so feisty, and just really confident,” said Rogers as she remembered her friend’s US Open breakthrough.
“I hope that I can inspire some people too because that’s really one of the biggest reasons why I play is for the kids growing up, for the people from Charleston. I want to be a good role model. Hopefully I am.”
Muguruza will be playing in her third successive French Open quarter-final having also finished runner-up to Serena Williams at Wimbledon last year. “I think the one thing that I have really improved is not just one type of shot. It’s me, generally speaking,” said the Venezuelan-born player.
“It’s the way I prepare matches. I think I have more experience. When I win I analyse why. When I lose I analyse why.”
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