Charleston native Shelby Rogers knows that she won't have her usual home-court advantage at this year's Volvo Car Open, but she's still aiming for a deep run following a successful start to the season.
Due to the pandemic, there will no local crowds cheering for Roger at the green-clay WTA 500 tournament. The 28-year-old won her first-round match, 6-4, 6-3, over Kristina Mladenovic.
"I think it's just another event, this week. I'm not able to get home until the event is done. I'm in the bubble getting tested and everything like everyone else...at this point we're kind of used to it," Rogers told press, but added, "I think I might have a little advantage, just feeling my heart is so happy to be in Charleston and be home, seeing the beautiful view from the hotel. So I'll have that on the court."
Rogers began her comeback from a long injury layoff in Charleston two years ago; her year-end ranking in 2018 was No. 780. Currently, the big hitter is ranked No. 52—almost back to her career-high mark of No. 48, earned in 2017. But she doesn't want to stop there.
"I had some good wins and was able to build some confidence from that,” she said. "But I have a lot of goals I want to achieve, so we've just gotten started.”
Rogers at the Miami Open, where she went 1-1. (Getty Images)
Since the resumption of play last August, Rogers has played some of the best tennis in her career. In the first WTA tournament of the tour's re-opening, in Lexington, she defeated Serena Williams in a third-set tiebreaker to reach the semifinals. She reached the quarterfinals of the US Open for the first time, topping No. 11 seed Elena Rybakina and Petra Kvitova along the way. In 2021, she's reached two quarterfinals, along with the fourth round of the Australian Open.
Rogers worked extensively during the off-season, and entered the Melbourne stretch of play filled with confidence.
"The start to the season for me was great," she told TENNIS.com. “I think everyone went into Australia a little unsure the way it was going to go because of the two-week quarantine... all of the different testing and not being able to make your scheduling, this sort of thing. So I was really, really happy with the way I played."
She now understands her game more and can use her shots more effectively.
“I felt like I was a little bit more sure about what I wanted to do on the court as far as strategies and plays and things. I felt I was using my serving and being a little more aggressive with my returns, too,” Rogers said. “So being able to start the point with an advantage is the goal. We want to be able to take control of the point right away.”
Shelby Rogers after her first-round win at the Volvo Car Open:
And a lot of that, according to Rogers, comes down to psychological improvement.
"I’ve definitely improved a lot, one of them also being the intangibles—the mental aspect of it,” said Rogers.
“Everyone at this level can hit the ball pretty darn good—we're all very good at what we do, so it's just the little details that make a difference. And I think I've been able to identify those things that need to get better—a little more creative, and okay with making some mistakes here and there. So just the mental aspect of it is also huge.”
She now wants to keep that aggressive mentality and pick the right shots in tight moments against top players.
“I always get nervous before a match. Once you get on court it's always just problem-solving,” Rogers said. “If you're [playing] these players, they adjust and you have to adjust. If I back off, that's never a good thing, I have to keep going and try to take control of the points.”
Rogers will next face compatriot Amanda Anisimova on Wednesday's night session.