In her first two matches this week, Serena Williams found herself playing from behind. The current world No. 9 was five points from exiting in her opener to Bernarda Pera, and was down 2-4 in a second-round decider with big sister Venus Williams.
On Friday at the Top Seed Open in Lexington, K.Y., it looked like a different story was in the cards for Williams against Shelby Rogers, until late in the second set of their quarterfinal meeting. Serving at 4-4, 0-30, Rogers surged to force a third set, and would prevail in a decisive tiebreaker to post a 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5) victory after two hours and eight minutes.
"It's every kid's dream, growing up watching her play," Rogers said in her post-match interview. "Weird circumstances, weird setting. But a win is a win. It's great to see everyone fit and playing well. I was definitely overwhelmed in the first with the pace and heavy spin. I tried to make a few more balls. The serve was a struggle for me to today, but second serve came through for me when I needed it."
The win mark’s Rogers’ first Top 10 victory since the 2017 Australian Open, where she ousted then No. 4 Simona Halep. The former French Open quarterfinalist is also through to the semifinals of a WTA event for the first time since her runner-up effort at 2016 Rio de Janeiro.
From early March 2018 to the beginning of April 2019, Rogers did not appear on the WTA tour after undergoing left knee surgery. Her ranking was at No. 743 when she returned at her hometown event in Charleston, and rebuilt her ranking to No. 116 through a number of strong showings at ITF and USTA Pro Circuit Events.
Rogers, who is projected to get back inside the Top 100 in the live rankings, will meet Jil Teichmann for a spot in the final on Saturday. Teichmann, a 6-2, 6-4 winner over CiCi Bellis, is the third left-hander Rogers will face this week.
Williams suffered a loss to a player ranked outside the Top 100 for the first time since the 2012 French Open, when she was stunned by No. 111 Virginie Razzano.
Fellow Americans Coco Gauff and Jennifer Brady were also victorious in the bottom half of the draw. Down 4-6, 2-4, 30-40, to Ons Jabeur, Gauff dug out of hole and would soon grab complete control for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over the No. 8 seed.
"My last two opponents were big hitters, so coming in and playing somebody who is a little bit more crafty was definitely difficult," Gauff assessed afterwards. "It was hard to maintain a rhythm on her, just cause she's always changing up the ball height and the ball speeds, but I'm glad I was kind of able to figure it out in the third."
The 16-year-old, playing her first event since reaching the round of 16 at the Australian Open, is through to her second tour-level semifinal after improving to 10-2 in three-set clashes. Last October, as a lucky loser, Gauff raised her first WTA trophy when she outlasted Jelena Ostapenko in Linz.
Brady has been the in-form player of the week thus far, dropping just 11 games across her three encounters. The 25-year-old dismissed Marie Bouzkova, 6-1, 6-2, converting five of her seven break points to get through to her second semifinal of 2020. In February, Brady qualified in Dubai before knocking off three Top 20 opponents on her way to the final four. She is bidding to win her first WTA title this weekend.