Rogers eyes place in main draw

Shelby Rogers

Planes, trains or automobiles are forms of transportation that Sony Ericsson WTA members use to play in the top inter- national events.

But when it comes to Shelby Rogers, she could just walk to the prestigious Family Circle Cup complex.

The 17-year-old Rogers earned a wild card in today's qualifying round of the Family Circle Cup by winning the Smash Junior Cup last month. Rogers lives on Daniel Island and passes the Family Circle Cup Stadium at least twice a day. If she could pick up a win today and another one on Sunday, her dream of playing in the 10,200-seat main stadium could become a reality.

"Someone told me I should ride my bicycle to get there," Rogers said. "But to be honest with you, I will probably drive. I could walk, but I will drive."

Rogers knows the history of the tournament that began in 1973 and moved to Charleston 10 years ago. She was a ball girl in 2001, and by the end of that year's event, she also was the flower girl. She presented a bouquet of flowers to 2001 champion Jennifer Capriati.

"That's when I decided I wanted to be just like her," Rogers said. "I wanted to be the Family Circle Cup champion."

Rogers has a long way to go before she reaches the ranking Capriati enjoyed during her prime. Rogers moved up more than 100 rungs on the WTA rankings list, but is still only No. 774 in the world. She's won $558 this year and $1,587 in her brief career.

She began playing tennis when she was 4 years old, and the reason she kept playing in her formative years was to beat older sister, Sabra, who played high school tennis at Bishop England. Shelby wants to make a career of it, and attends high school online. That allows her to schedule classes at her convenience and chase her dream.

"I still have to do homework," she said. "I still have to talk to my teachers. I just do it online."

Rogers' 2009 ITF highlights include reaching the semifinals of the $10,000 Costa Rica Bowl and the $10,000 ITF event at Vera Cruz, Mexico. She also played at tournaments in Rancho Mirage, Calif. and St. Joseph, Mo.

Those events pale in comparison to the stature of the Family Circle Cup, which offers $700,000 in prize money.

The Family Circle facility hosted the Smash Junior Cup, and Rogers defeated Emily Gelber of Scarsdale, N.Y., to receive a wild card into today's event. The stage is the same, but the pressure will be a lot more intense.

"The stands, the bleachers, there will be a lot more people," Rogers said. "I will have some butterflies. I will be a little nervous. But I just have to play my game. I will have a lot of friends and family members there to support me. The bigger the crowd, the better. I'm just hoping to put on a big show. "

Qualifying begins today and concludes Sunday. Eight qualifiers will advance to the main draw, which begins on Monday.

Rogers' coach, Bryan Minton, said his pupil just needs to relax.

"She's done the work and played the game a million times," he said. "She just needs to go out there, play her game and have fun."