World no. 116 Shelby Rogers has taken everything from her Lexington wild card so far, beating the 23-time Major champion for the first semi-final in years. A former top-50 player had to undergo knee surgery, missing a lot of tennis in 2018 and 2019 and losing a spot in the rankings last season.
Bouncing back, the American celebrated her third top-10 triumph in a career on Friday, beating Serena 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 to become the first player ranked outside the top-100 with a victory over Williams since Roland Garros 2012!
Serena won six points more after a dominant opening set, unable to stay on that level as Shelby started to play much better from set number two, dropping 16 points behind the initial shot in the last two sets to keep the pressure on Serena.
In the opener, Serena lost six points on serve, forcing Shelby to follow the same pace if she wanted to stay in contention. Serena held in the first game with a service winner, earning a break at 30 in the next following a forehand winner to settle into a nice rhythm.
Another powerful serve sent Serena 3-0 up, controlling the pace so far and securing another break in game six, closing the opener with another booming serve after 27 minutes. Shelby served at only 38% in set number two but that was hardly an obstacle, losing six points in five service games for a much better performance than in the opener.
Finding sweet spots with her initial shot and delivering more efficient groundstrokes, Shelby never felt in trouble in her games, waiting patiently for a chance on the return that came at 5-4. Rogers held in the ninth game with a service winner and converted the third set point on return in the next one when Serena netted a forehand.
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.
Shelby Rogers defeated Serena Williams in the quarter-final in Lexington.
Holding her nerves, Williams avoided the last set's plot, leveling the score at 5-5 to extend the drama. Serena brought the 12th game home when Rogers sprayed a backhand error, setting the deciding tie break.
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, turning tables in the upcoming points to forge the advantage.
In the tenth point, Williams netted an easy backhand, offering two match points to Rogers. Serena saved the first with a service winner before Shelby sealed the deal with a powerful initial shot, celebrating a notable victory.
"It was important for me going onto the court, thinking I could win that match and knowing I could take care of my service games. Serena Williams has probably the best serve of all time, and when she wants to, she can win a point on her serve.
I just tried to control what I could control, and that's mostly my service games, and then if I had an opportunity, I tried to capitalize. I think the few that I did have today, I was able to do that. Six months after surgery, I didn't think I would be able to play again, ever.
I'm pretty thankful to gain that perspective after going through that and be grateful to be on the court competing again. I changed the way I was playing a little bit in the second and third sets. I was missing too much in the first, going for too much.
I just tried to, honestly, make balls in the second. I don't think anybody's really playing their best tennis right now, so it's just really finding a way to win, get one more ball back in," Shelby Rogers said.