As she left stadium court, Shelby Rogers turned and blew a kiss to her hometown fans, a wistful look on her face.
Rogers' dream of winning her hometown professional tennis tournament ended Friday.
But just for this year.
Rogers, a Charleston native who once served as a ballgirl at this tournament, certainly proved that she can win the Volvo Car Open one day. Fighting a strained abdominal muscle, the 24-year-old took a tense first set in Friday's quarterfinals before bowing to veteran Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who won 6-7 (7), 6-1, 6-1 at Volvo Car Stadium.
The crowd gave Rogers a supportive cheer as she left the court, having won three straight matches in the best performance at this tournament in her career. She'll pocket $17,858 for the week, and she didn't even need a hotel room.
"I'm happy to share these moments with my hometown," a tearful Rogers said. "I'll be back."
Saturday's semifinals will be a generational battle, with teenagers taking on veterans. Jelena Ostapenko, a 19-year-old Russian who upset fifth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, will face 35-year-old Lucic-Baroni. The other semifinal pits Germany's Laura Siegemund, 29, against Russian teenager Daria Kasatkina.
Ostapenko, ranked No. 66, ripped off 40 winners in a 6-2, 6-4 win over No. 12 Wozniacki, ending a hot streak for the world's former No. 1 player, who made the finals in Miami last week, her third final of the year. Ostapenko converted her fourth match point with an ace, her third of the match.
"If she played like this every day, then I mean she would be No. 1 in the world," said Wozniacki, who had just four unforced errors. "Everything was going in. She was hitting the lines. Everything that could go her way today was going her way."
Said Ostapenko, "I was just trying to not make so many unforced errors and stay aggressive. That's the way I play."
As for Rogers, she fought through a nerve-wracking first set, warding off one set point and finally converting her own third set point in the tiebreak.
"The fans definitely helped me through that first set," Rogers said. "I had some chances, a couple of set points that I didn't get right away, and they kept my energy up. They kept me going. It's unbelievable."
Even with the fans behind her, an ailing Rogers couldn't keep up the pace. Lucic-Baroni, seeded No. 11 and ranked No. 23, cruised through the second and third sets.
"It was beautiful in a way," said Lucic-Baroni, a Croatia native with three tour titles. "It was difficult playing against the crowd, because I mean Shelby is from here. It's normal. It's always tough, but I felt they were very respectful. They were cheering for their home girl."
That Rogers wasn't at her physical best for the fans was frustrating.
"It sucks," she said. "There's no other way to put it really. I fought as hard as I could, but there's not much you can do at that point."
Rogers can add this week to a highlight reel that already includes a quarterfinal run at the French Open, a win over then-No. 4 Simona Halep at the Australian Open and a U.S. Fed Cup team appearance as she heads to Europe for the clay-court season. And the odds that will include a Volvo Car Open title one day are increased.
"That would be amazing one day," she said. "I think last season and matches in the past I've proved to myself that I can play with the top girls in the world. So this is my job, this is what I do. I love it, and I'm going to keep fighting every match, every week."
Rogers is not the only player who made a breakthrough this week.
Siegemund entered the Volvo Car Open with one match victory this year, having lost her opening match in eight of nine events.
After a 6-2, 6-4 win over Anastasija Sevastova at Volvo Car Stadium on Thursday, the 37th-ranked Siegemund is two wins away from her second WTA Tour title. She's won four straight matches here, including a three-set, three-hour battle with Venus Williams.
"That was there all the time," said Siegemund, who toiled for years in tennis' minor leagues. "And I'm really happy that now at this point of my career I can really show what's inside of me."
Kasatkina, 19 and ranked No. 42 in the world, defeated Irina-Camelia Begu 6-4, 6-1 to make her third WTA Tour semifinal. She's seeking her first singles title on tour after making the third round in three Grand Slam events last year.
Kasatkina realized that she needed to change her game last year at the Volvo Car Open, when she lost in three sets to eventual champion Sloane Stephens. At the time, she said "they're going to kill me at the high level" if she didn't change.
"Now I can say that my game is play with the spin and slowly move inside the court, because before I was trying to play really defensive," she said Friday. "I was a defensive player. Now I'm trying to play more aggressive, because the women's tennis is moving this way, so I have to adapt and get used to it."