It's no longer just a dream. Shelby Rogers is a full-fledged professional women's tour player.
Yes, Charleston has its own traveling pro. The Daniel Island 17-year-old made the career move a week ago after a runner-up performance in a $50,000 challenger in Plantation, Fla.
It's all happened so quickly for Rogers that it must seem surreal. Less than three months ago she was winning the Smash Junior Cup to earn a berth in the Family Circle Cup's qualifying tournament.
Rogers missed out on the big tournament's main draw. But possibly even better she was given a spot in a Friday night exhibition before a big Family Circle Cup crowd in the big stadium, playing alongside veteran Patty Schnyder. You might say Rogers carried Patty to victory that night over a doubles team that made the semifinals of the Family Circle Cup.
College can wait. Rogers has made her decision to skip college tennis.
She is now ranked No. 427 in the world ... and climbing at a fast pace. A week ago, she was ranked 746th.
The week has been that fast for Rogers. After having her service broken in the 10th game of the third set last Sunday afternoon by now 98th-ranked Edina Gallovits of Romania to end a seven-match winning streak, Rogers hopped on an airplane for Atlanta to attend her older sister Sabra's graduation from Emory University on Monday. Shelby soon was on another airline bound for Raleigh, N.C., where she was given a special exemption into the main draw of another $50,000 challenger.
One door opened another. That's the way it's been for Rogers since winning the Smash Cup.
"I always wanted to turn pro. In my mind I've been a pro for awhile. It's just official now," Rogers said Tuesday from Raleigh.
In turning pro, she passed up numerous college offers, mostly from Southern colleges such as Georgia, Florida and Clemson.
"I can't play college tennis now," she said without a hint of disappointment.
"There were lots of college offers, but I was going to take a year off anyway and play the pro circuit."
She has no timetable for success on the tour. She's in it for the long haul. Her 2010 goal? "Just to learn as much as I can and try to work my way higher in the rankings."
She did hint at one goal: "I told Eleanor (Family Circle Cup tournament manager Eleanor Adams) that I would be direct entry in (Family Circle main draw) next year."
Players Racquet and Tennis Club pro Bryan Minton has been her coach and mentor throughout her junior career, seldom missing one of Rogers' matches. Minton will remain her main advisor and coach, but weekly travels to tournaments all over the country and out of it might not always be feasible for Minton.
"He'll try to be there as much as possible," Rogers said.
After making the round of 16 at Raleigh, Rogers should move into the world's top 400 when the WTA Tour rankings are released Monday.
"That's pretty good ... from 746 to the top 400 in two weeks," Minton said Friday. "Shelby has cracked the top 400 in eight (pro) tournaments."
In Raleigh, she defeated U.S. Fed Cup team player Alexa Glatch, currently ranked No. 217 in the world, in three sets in the opening round.
Rogers then lost in the round of 16 to former 51st-ranked Alina Jidkova of Russia, a $1 million winner on the pro tour.
Rogers plans to take next week off, then possibly play in another tournament before the $10,000 USTA satellite tournament scheduled for June 13-20 at the Players Club.
As for her success in Florida, Rogers gave a mature observation: "I played real well, but I have to start all over . . ."
Welcome to the life of a touring professional.
The $10,000 Mount Pleasant Women's Pro Classic at the Players Club will showcase not only the talents of Rogers, but also of other upcoming women on the pro tour. The tournament is looking for additional sponsors as well as host families for 20 visiting officials. Contact Kit Menis (901-0059 or email@example.com) for sponsorships or pro Chuck Lee (330-1128 or firstname.lastname@example.org) to serve as a host family.
The Players Club event will be the third of three $10,000 Women's Pro Series events scheduled for the next month in the state. The first one will be held at Sumter's Palmetto Tennis Center May 22-30 before the circuit moves to Hilton Head Island for a May 29-June 6 tournament and then closes out at the Players Club.
--The Players Club will offer summer tennis camps for juniors 6-17 years of age starting June 1. Contact the Players Club (849-6560).
--The High School League state singles tournament is scheduled for next Friday and Saturday at the Lexington County Tennis Complex.
--Berkeley's Zac Dye finished the season with a 14-0 record and will play in the state singles tournament.
Reach James Beck at email@example.com. James Beck's columns on pro tennis are available at http://ricerca.quotidianonet.ilsole24ore.com/articoli/ubitennis.html?keyword=beck