The semifinal was the jewel, but the final gave Shelby Rogers the crown of the 32nd annual Dow Tennis Classic in Midland, Mich., on Sunday.
The championship came without a struggle as No. 7 seed Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine was forced to default the final of the prominent long-running $100,000 ITF event as a result of a right toe injury. Thus, the sixth-seeded Rogers collected the nice check and enough WTA Tour points to lift her No. 138 world ranking approximately 25 positions.
"I'm a little bit speechless right now," Rogers told the Dow Classic and Tennis Channel audiences at the award ceremony.
"I had knee surgery a year and a half ago, so I know how important it is to listen to your body," the 27-year-old Charleston touring professional told Kalinina. "I want to commend you for that. I worked really hard to get back here, and to have this moment is really special."
Ranked as high as No. 48 in the world before the surgery, Rogers is now just a few positions away from earning direct entry into the main draw of the next Grand Slam, the French Open.
"Unfortunate way for the week to end, but I am very happy with the four matches that I did play," Rogers said later. "(I'm) happy to be back competing healthy and stringing matches together. It’s always a good week when you are there on the last day of an event.
"Midland is such a great tournament, and they really run a world-class event. (I'm) excited to be headed home now for some rest after a long four-week trip (that included the Australian Open)."
Rogers didn't get to the Midland final by default. She had to rally from a 5-3 first-set deficit and then from a 4-2 hole in the second set to force a tiebreaker in Saturday's semifinals against former Georgia Tech standout Irina Falconi to advance to the title match with a 7-5, 7-6 (4) victory.
After the 29-year-old Falconi won back-to-back points to close to 5-4 in the second-set tiebreaker, Rogers forced her opponent into a forehand volleying error to go up 6-4, then closed out the victory by delivering a big serve that Falconi couldn't put into play.
Rogers played superb baseline tennis while delivering big forehand winners, mostly down the lines against Falconi, a 5-4 native of Ecuador. Falconi covered the court well but could not match Rogers' power and consistency down the stretch.