Ten years ago, Family Circle Cup champion Jennifer Capriati kissed an 8-year-old Shelby Rogers on the cheek and made a prediction.
"She told me that I could be playing here one day," Rogers said Monday afternoon, wiping away tears.
Capriati's prediction came true on Monday when the 18-year-old Rogers, Charleston's favorite tennis pro, took Stadium Court for the first time in the Family Circle Cup, the same tournament where she served as a ball girl during Capriati's title run in 2001.
Rogers thrilled a crowd filled with friends and family by taking the first set against American veteran Jill Craybas. But the enormity of the moment and the savvy of the 36-year-old Craybas eventually exacted a toll on Rogers, who dropped the final nine games in a 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 first-round loss.
"I felt really good in the first set," Rogers said afterward. "And then I probably started thinking a little bit about it, and I fought myself a little bit.
"Overall, it was a good experience and I had fun out there. The crowd was awesome; I'm just sorry I couldn't please them today."
Rogers, who was born in Mount Pleasant and lives on Daniel Island,
turned pro last year after graduating from First Baptist School in Charleston. She earned an invitation to the 2010 U.S. Open and won two matches at an ITF tournament last week in Alabama.
The wild-card entry into the main draw at the Family Circle Cup was the next step in the education of a tour pro, but carried with it a different kind of pressure.
"At the U.S. Open, there are a lot of people watching," said Rogers, who took tour veteran Shuai Peng to three sets at the Open. "But you don't know everyone in the crowd. It's a little different having all your friends and family watching. You really want to impress them and put your best game out there."
Rogers did just that early in the match, ripping a forehand winner on the first point and breaking a flat-footed Craybas twice to take the first set.
But that's when the moment seemed to catch up with Rogers. Craybas broke back to start the second set, and Rogers began spraying the ball as Craybas played more aggressively.
"Shelby played one fabulous set, and then she got a little nervous in the second and third set, and that really affected her play," said Rogers' coach, Bryan Minton.
"If she can learn to get over the nerves ... She's young, and this was her first time playing a match in the main draw on a stadium court like that. It was a huge moment for her, and maybe it got to her a little bit."
Rogers hit 117 mph while cracking three aces, but converted only two of nine break points against Craybas, who is ranked No. 112.
"She's a talented girl," said Craybas, who lost to another young American hopeful, Melanie Oudin, at last year's Family Circle Cup. "She's really young and has a lot of years ahead of her. She has a great serve and groundstrokes and the potential for a good all-around game. She just needs to keep working hard and enjoy herself, and I think she has a good future."
Rogers is not done this week. She is teaming with veteran Patty Schnyder in the doubles draw, a partnership born last year when Rogers played the two-time Family Circle Cup finalist in an exhibition match on Stadium Court.
"I'm looking forward to winning a couple of doubles matches," Rogers said, "and showing Charleston that maybe I can win a match in this city."