Rogers wins USTA title

Shelby Rogers, USA, returns the ball against Grace Min, USA, during qualifying Saturday, March 30, 2013 at the Family Circle Cup on Daniel Island. (Paul Zoeller/

Charleston’s Shelby Rogers has won three $50,000 ITF tournaments and a national girls 18 championship. She owns a Grand Slam tournament win.

But Sunday’s 6-2, 6-3 victory over 227th-ranked Anna Tatishvili in the final of a $75,000 USTA Women’s Pro Circuit event in Albuquerque, N.M., may have been the most important win of Rogers’ career.

It’s not the money, although $11,400 is a nice bonus. It’s the 110 WTA Tour ranking points that the 20-year-old Charleston player earned in Albuquerque that make the tournament title so important.

Climbing 18 places to 117th in the world when the rankings come out on Monday, Rogers not only has reached a new career high in the rankings, but she is now flirting with the world’s top 100, which is something of a measuring stick for aspiring young tennis players.

“My goal at the beginning of the year was to be in the top 100 by the end of the year,” Rogers said Sunday afternoon while en route to the Albuquerque airport to board a plane for Las Vegas and another tournament. “This was probably my biggest win. It puts me a lot closer to the top 100. If I get in the top 100, I’ll make the main draw of the Australian Open on my own.”

But for now, Rogers has 50 WTA points to defend in Las Vegas where she was a finalist in the $50,000 event a year ago.

“After that, I will have only 32 points to defend the rest of the year,” said Rogers, who will return to the USTA training center in Boca Raton, Fla., after the Las Vegas tournament before heading to Europe for a series of indoor events.

The eighth-seeded Rogers was pleased with her play in a stiff wind on Sunday against her 23-year-old former top 50 opponent. “I kind of played smart and just tried to put the ball on the court,” Rogers said.

“I was expecting a battle, but it was nice to be ahead the whole time.”

Rogers used her big serve and strong forehand to jump out to 4-1 leads in both sets. Although Tatishvili, a Georgia Republic native who also has trained at the Chris Evert Academy in Boca Raton since age 13, closed to 4-3 in the second set, Rogers quickly broke back and then served out the match.