Shelby Rogers appears to thrive on competition. Less than three months after earning a wild card into the main draw of the French Open through a challenging segment of three U.S. Pro Circuit tennis tournaments, the 20-year-old Daniel Island product has done it again.
Rogers earned a berth in the upcoming U.S. Open’s main draw on Sunday by capturing the singles title in the Pro Circuit’s $50,000 event in Lexington, Ky., with a 6-4, 7-6 (3) win over France’s Julie Coin, a 30-year-old former Clemson star. The Lexington title and a semifinal appearance a week earlier in Portland, Ore., earned Rogers 102 WTA Tour ranking points, topping two-time NCAA titlist Nicole Gibbs’ two-tournament total of 88 points.
The wild card goes to the American player compiling the most WTA points in two of the three tournaments.
As icing on the cake for her most recent success, Rogers is projected to climb to a new career high in the world rankings, a couple places above her previous best of No. 134. She entered Lexington ranked No. 143.
There’s also the matter of prize money. The $7,600 first prize in Lexington gives Rogers more than $80,000 in earnings for 2013, and she will move past the $100,000 mark in New York where last year’s first-round losers earned $23,000.
Was she thinking about the wild card and all of the other perks? “I try not to think about it on the court . . . but now I can celebrate . . . I’m very happy,” said Rogers, who also earned a wild card into the 2010 U.S. Open by winning the national junior championship.
Rogers handled the pressure well against the veteran Coin, who suffered four double faults, was out-aced 5-3 and piled up unforced errors most of the match. Rogers came up with the only service break in the first set, and each player earned a service break in the second set.
Things did get a little tight after Rogers jumped out to a set and a 4-2 lead. Coin suddenly demonstrated a boost in energy and shot-making to win three straight games for a 5-4 advantage in the second set as Rogers appeared to lose focus, suffering a service break and committing eight errors in the three games.
But Rogers regained her form to hold service at 40-30 in the 10th and 12th games to force a tiebreaker. The pressure reverted back to Coin as the Frenchwoman did little right in the tiebreaker, while Rogers continued to hammer her big serve and play smart, consistent tennis to get to 5-2. Rogers nailed a backhand winner to wrap up the championship.
Reach James Beck at email@example.com. See his columns on pro tennis at ubitennis.com/english.