The 23-time Major champion Serena Williams suffered the toughest defeat in terms of ranking since Roland Garros 2012, losing to world no. 116 Shelby Rogers 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 in two hours and seven minutes. Thanks to that opening set, Serena won six points more, not enough to go through after taking only 16 points on the return in sets two and three.
Shelby raised her level from set number two, placing smart serves and outplaying a great champion from the baseline for a career-best result and the place in the semis. Serena grabbed two breaks in the opener, never repeating anything similar and giving serve away in the tenth game of set number two that cost her dearly.
There were no breaks of serve in the decider, with Roger taking the tie break 7-5 to seal the deal and stay on the title course. In the opener, Serena lost six points behind the initial shot, forcing Shelby to follow the same pace if she wanted to stay in contention.
That didn't happen and Williams raced past her rival with a double break. Serena held in the first game with a service winner, earning a break at 30 in the next one following a forehand winner to settle into a nice rhythm and forge an early advantage.
Another powerful serve sent Serena 3-0 up, controlling the pace so far and forcing an error from Shelby in the fifth game to remain in front. With nothing working her way, Rogers netted a forehand to suffer a break in game six, allowing Serena to close the opener with another booming serve after 27 minutes.
Shelby served at only 38% but no one could notice that, dropping only six points in five service games for a much better performance than in the opener. Finding sweet spots with her initial shot and delivering much stronger first groundstroke, Shelby never felt in trouble in her games, waiting patiently for a chance on the return that came at 5-4.
World no. 116 Shelby Rogers defeated Serena in three sets.
There were no chances for the returners in the opening nine games, not even to reach deuce, and Shelby was on the right pace when she needed it the most, especially at 4-4.
Rogers held in that ninth game with a service winner and converted the third set point on the return when Serena netted a forehand to force a decider. In the second game of the final set, Shelby wasted a break chance when her backhand landed beyond the baseline, with great serving on both sides in the upcoming games, just like in the previous one.
Rogers moved 5-4 up with an unreturned serve, forcing Serena to serve for staying in the tournament. Holding her nerves, Williams avoided the last set's scenario, leveling the score at 5-5 to extend the drama. Dominating with her serve, Shelby held at 15 in game 11 with a perfect lob winner, mounting the pressure on the other side of the net once again.
Serena brought the 12th game home when Rogers sprayed a backhand error, setting the deciding tie break, the best way to determine the winner. The more experienced player clinched a mini-break in the first point, losing the advantage after a double fault.
Rogers made a forced error in the fourth point to push Williams 3-1 in front, winning the next two points to level the score at 3-3. Shelby moved 4-3 in front with a forehand winner, extending the lead even further before Serena hit a forehand winner to remain in touch.
In the tenth point, Williams netted an easy backhand, offering her opponent two match points. Serena saved the first with a service winner before Shelby sealed the deal with a powerful initial shot, moving into the semis and celebrating a career-best victory.