WESLEY CHAPEL — The January air was raw. For that matter, so was her psyche. The previous year had walloped Shelby Rogers, leaving her with an aching back, throbbing right knee and splintering confidence.
She needed this low-key tournament at Saddlebrook Resort, a $25,000 blip on the ITF challenger circuit. For the Charleston, S.C., native, it was more about collecting mojo than money. After 17 first-round losses in 2015, Rogers simply needed to rediscover her timing — and her edge.
So she took the court to all the fanfare that roughly a dozen spectators could muster.
“The goal is to just get matches, get feeling healthy, get comfortable on the clay,” Rogers said. “I was staying with a family I knew that lives here in Saddlebrook. So they were there, my coach, maybe five others.”
Rogers made it to the semifinals, losing to eventual winner Sofia Kenin of Pembroke Pines. Four months later, she staged the most exhilarating run of her professional life, upsetting four consecutive opponents — including two-time Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova — to reach the French Open quarterfinals.
“I was super positive, enjoying what I was doing, and everything just kind of came together,” she said.
Now, 15 months after arriving at Saddlebrook inconspicuously, Rogers returns triumphantly — as a member of the U.S. Fed Cup team. Rehab has evolved into a rebirth.
This time, a few hundred more spectators will be watching. She’ll take center court Saturday against the Czech Republic as the world’s 49th-ranked singles player, and the first American woman not named Williams to reach the French Open quarterfinals since 2005.
“She’s got a lot of confidence,” U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi said.
Rogers followed her improbable French Open run with an upset of fourth-seeded Simona Halep in the first round of the Australian Open in January. Earlier this month, at the Volvo Car …read more