Shelby Rogers’ dream is for real.
The Charleston 20-year-old displayed excellent and intelligent play in her French Open debut on a chilly Sunday in Paris while scoring a convincing 6-3, 6-4 win over French 24-year-old Irena Pavlovic in a first-round match televised by the Tennis Channel.
Attired in a light blue and yellow two-piece outfit, Rogers looked and played like a seasoned veteran as she mixed power with high balls while winning 60 of the 107 points. She didn’t face a break point and served only one double fault during the 84-minute matchup of wild cards on the red clay.
Rogers was clearly the better of the two players on this day, playing before a small crowd on outside court No. 7 that included few supporters other than her stepfather, former Citadel football star Jim Gabrish, and her mother, Starley, who gave her daughter a big hug before Rogers signed autographs and walked off the court.
Already advancing 18 spots in this week’s world rankings to No. 170, Rogers’ initial Grand Slam main draw victory should put her into the top 140 two weeks from now. And don’t discount the $45,500 Roland Garros payday she already has earned.
Bigger possibilities loom as Rogers won for the 11th time in her last 14 matches to advance to the second round against the winner of today’s match between 20th-ranked Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain and Simona Halep of Romania. A win there would be worth an additional $32,500.
A three-game stretch that netted two service breaks took Rogers through the last two games of the first set and the opening game of the second set. She didn’t commit an unforced error during the three games.
Holding a set and a service break lead, Rogers maintained the advantage the rest of the way with strong serving and excellent placement and consistency in her groundstrokes.
The Daniel Island product earned one match point in the ninth game of the second set with a strong forehand up the line, but Pavlovic, who hits two-handed from each side, fought it off and forced Rogers to serve for the match.
Rogers didn’t buckle, holding at love to close out the match, just as she had held at love to end the first set.
She wrapped up the last four points of the match impressively with powerful, well-placed serves that produced one ace, an unreturnable serve wide at match point and a pair of serves that resulted in short returns that Rogers jumped all over with her forehand.
Holding a 4-3 lead in the first set, Rogers outlasted the 172nd-ranked Pavlovic to break service in the long eighth game by drilling a strong backhand from the middle of the court that split the line for one of her 21 winners. Rogers then served out the set.
The American took advantage of a double fault and three unforced errors by Pavlovic to come up with a 15-40 service break in the opening game of the second set. Rogers committed only 18 unforced errors to 26 for her opponent.
Pavlovic had only three double faults, but two of them came in the two games she was broken.
In her two Grand Slam main draw matches, Rogers has faced two-handed groundstrokers both times. She lost to Peng Shuai of China in the first round of the 2010 U.S. Open.
Reach James Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org. See his columns on pro tennis at ubitennis.com/english.
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