In September, Shelby Rogers was battling eventual U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka on one of the grandest stages in tennis, Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York.
On Friday, Rogers found herself clearing her own balls from a much humbler court in Tyler, Texas.
That's life as a professional tennis player during the coronavirus pandemic, as touring pros seek out any and all venues to make a living.
Rogers, fresh off her run to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open in September, returns home to the Charleston area this week to play in the LTP $100K, a USTA Pro Circuit series event at LTP Mount Pleasant.
Currently ranked No. 58, Rogers heads a 32-player field that is the strongest ever for an event at LTP Mount Pleasant. The field includes six players ranked in the WTA Tour's top 100, led by No. 27 Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan. Rising American stars such as No. 72 Lauren Davis and No. 81 Madison Brengle dot the draw.
"It's a very strong field," said tournament director Patrick Hieber. "There are very limited possibilities for pro tour players to play tournaments right now because of the ongoing pandemic. A lot of the bigger tournaments that would have been in Asia this time of year have been canceled, and many other events have been canceled or postponed. So there are not a whole lot of events out there.
"That's why we were able to draw a lot of players who would normally be in Asia playing bigger tournaments."
Charleston's Emma Navarro, the No. 3 junior player in the world and a Virginia commitment, also is in the field as a wild card in the main draw. Last year, she won three rounds and defeated three top 200 players at the LTP $100K. Charleston players Kennedy Shaffer and Emma Charney received wild cards into the qualifying draw.
The run to the U.S. Open quarterfinals, where Rogers lost to Osaka, already makes this one of the best years of the 28-year-old's career, despite the pandemic. She won $425,000 at the U.S. Open, then collected $66,318 for a first-round loss at the French Open, boosting her earnings this year to $642,589 and her career earnings to nearly $3 million. Rogers' current ranking of No. 58 is just 10 spots short of her career high of No. 48, in 2017.
On Friday, she lost in three sets at a USTA Pro Circuit event in Tyler, Texas, a rare stumble in what has been a remarkable comeback from a 13-month layoff due to injury. During the summer, Rogers knocked off WTA superstar Serena Williams.
"I feel healthy. I feel happy on court," Rogers said at the U.S. Open. "I'm happy with where my game is, as well. I feel like I have a sense of clarity of what I'm trying to do when I step on the court. The confidence is just building with each match."
The LTP $100K is the third and final USTA Pro Circuit women's event of the fall, and features the most prize money of the three events. The singles winner will earn top prize of $15,239.
But due to COVID-19 guidelines, there will be no spectators at the event. Matches will be live-streamed at www.usta.com/procircuit.
"We have very strict COVID protocols that we have to follow," Hieber said. "Everybody is tested prior to coming on site and during the tournament, and the players are allowed to bring only one person with them. Normally, a lot of these players travel with two or three a tournament. Even my staff, I just got tested yesterday, and we all have to get tested in the middle of the week again.
"We are just trying to minimize risk and keep it as safe as we can."
The LTP $100K was originally scheduled for May, along with a $60K event in Mount Pleasant.
"They both were canceled due to the pandemic, but we were able to reschedule the bigger event," Hieber said.
In the past three years, LTP Mount Pleasant, owned by Charleston businessman and Volvo Car Open owner Ben Navarro, has gone from hosting one $15K event to the $100K and $60K events as well as the girls' 18 national clay courts and southern sectional tournaments.