There is no doubt that Shelby Rogers is a world-class tennis player after the performance the homegrown 21-year-old put on Tuesday at the Family Circle Cup. She did everything but close out a pair of sets.
Yes, she lost, 7-5, 7-5, to 12th-seeded Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia. Yet Rogers probably gained a new level of respect with her play on Billie Jean King Stadium Court.
Knowing how close she had come to her first Family Circle Cup main draw victory, Rogers fought back tears in the interview room.
"I'm glad I put on a good show for the crowd and I'm glad they were here to see how I've improved . . . to play that well against a good, seasoned player is encouraging," said Rogers, now ranked 109th in the world.
"She knew exactly what to do on the big points . . . she made me feel the pressure and she was hitting really deep, moving well. She stepped up her game when she needed to."
This was a far better showing for Rogers than three years earlier on the same court when she won the first set against veteran Jill Craybas before dropping a 6-0 third set.
Rogers outhit and outplayed Hantuchova to be in position to serve for the first set and then to twice serve for the second set. She dropped the last four games of the first set and last five games of the second set.
For most of the other 15 games, Rogers played spectacular tennis in dominating a 30-year-old opponent who is currently ranked No. 32 and was once ranked as high as fifth in the world. Rogers put on a clinic in those games by nailing forehands and backhands cross-court and down the lines.
Rogers was a true big-time pro, until it came time to serve for the first set at 5-4. She gave the game away with four unforced errors. When she served to stay in the set two games later, she committed four more unforced errors.
Rogers bounced back in the second set and appeared poised to force a third set by charging to a 5-2 lead.
But just as she had done when the first set was on the line, Hantuchova, often labeled a one-dimensional player, changed her game. She went cautious, taking pace off of the ball and moving the ball around the court. And Rogers cooperated, falling prey to over-hitting and being caught out of position.
"I think it's the way you have to play on clay, change it up, mixing it up, not playing one dimensional and use different shots," Hantuchova said.
Reach James Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org.