Shelby Rogers was not happy as she stomped off the court at Volvo Car Stadium on Monday night.
Charleston’s own tennis pro was eager to show her hometown fans the form that carried her to the finals in Rio de Janeiro earlier this year and to first-round wins in Acapulco and Indian Wells.
“On fire, like I couldn’t miss,” is how Rogers described her form so far in 2016.
But the 23-year-old from Mount Pleasant could not carry that form onto the court where she once served as a ballgirl. Rogers showed plenty of grit, but not enough consistency to beat 80th-ranked Lara Arruabarrena, who took a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory in the first round of the Volvo Car Open.
After slicing a backhand wide on match point, Rogers slammed her racket into her bag, then left the court without acknowledging the fans’ cheers.
“I have to say thank you to the fans for staying so late,” Rogers said in the press room. “I know it was a long day for them, and I should apologize for the way I left. It was the fans who really got me through that second set.”
Ranked No. 108, Rogers suffered through some injuries last year after a 2014 season that saw her make a final and a semifinal to record her first top 100 season, rising to No. 70 on the WTA Tour.
A healthy start to 2016 has her optimistic about this year, despite Monday’s disappointment.
“I can’t lose sight of the big picture,” she said. “I’m healthy and able to compete and play matches like that. I’m not sitting out watching everyone else playing matches, because that’s the hardest part. I’m thankful for that.”
Unable to put any pressure on Arruabarrena’s serve in the first set, Rogers fought off eight break points before finally giving way in the ninth game, allowing Arruabarrena to take the first set.
Arruabarrena broke again to start the second set, but Rogers bounced back to win three straight games. She crushed aces of 107 and 105 mph to go up 5-2, then clinched the set with a 104-mph ace.
“I was like, ‘I’m not giving up, I’m going to fight for every point,’ ” she said. “I wanted to win this match as much as she did. It just came down to a couple of points in the third set where I didnt’ step up.”
Rogers went down 0-2 in the third set before fighting back to 3-3. A double fault and a close call on an Arruabarrena winner down the line helped the Spainard break for a 5-3 lead.
Rogers wanted to make it clear she appreciated the fans’ support.
“The fans are so great here, they don’t care if I win or lose, they are going to support me,” she said. “I just felt like I didn’t step up, and it’s always tough to lose matches where you know you can win if you play like you are capable of.”
Arruabarrena will face defending champion Angelique Kerber in the second round.
Earlier Monday, former champion Sabine Lisicki overcame a mild case of nerves to prevail in her first-round match. Lisicki, who won this tournament in 2009, was down a service break in each set, but came through for a 6-4, 6-3 win over American Irina Falconi.
“I was so nervous,” the 15th-seeded Lisicki said after the match. “I love this place so much, I just got a little nervous.”
Lisicki, ranked No. 51 on the WTA Tour, is 26 years old and defeated Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki on the way to the 2009 title in this tournament. She made the quarterfinals in 2012, losing to Serena Williams.
Another American hopeful was eliminated as Christina McHale was beaten in a first-round match. McHale, ranked No. 57 on the WTA Tour, went down in three sets to Spain’s Lourdes Dominguez Lino 2-6, 6-4, 6-1. Dominguez, 35, is ranked No. 112.
It was the fifth straight first-round loss at this tournament for the 23-year-old McHale, who made the quarterfinals on Daniel Island in 2011.
No. 11 seed Kristina Mladenovic of France advanced with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Tatjana Maria.
Lourdes Dominguez Lino d. Christina McHale, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1
No. 11 Kristina Mladenovic d. Tatjana Maria, 6-4, 6-3
Kateryna Bondarenko d. Misaki Doi, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1
Daria Gavrilova d. Zarina Diyas, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3
Elena Vesnina d. Cindy Burger, 7-5, 6-2
Jana Cepelova d. Anastasija Sevastova, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni d. Shuai Peng, 6-2, 6-1
Ana Konjuh d. Sesil Karatantcheva, 6-3, 6-3
No. 15 Sabine Lisicki d. Irina Falconi, 6-4, 6-3
Alison Riske d. Francis Altick, 6-3, 6-2
Danka Kovinic d. Cagla Buyukakcay, 6-1, 6-3
Lara Arruabarrena d. Shelby Rogers, 4-6, 6-3, 4-6