NEW YORK — In a fierce third-round battle that lasted two hours and nine minutes, Wimbledon champion and World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty blew a comfortable third-set lead and was ousted from the US Open by 43rd-ranked American Shelby Rogers 6-2 2-6 7-6.
Barty got off to a slow start in the first set, barely moving, Rogers baseline forehand shots stopping her right in her tracks. Then, she flipped a switch, not only being nimble, but also making Rogers move with her shallow slices. She broke Rogers early in the second set and didn’t look back, taking the set 2-6.
“I played a pretty awful first set in the sense where I was erratic. I couldn’t quite find the rhythm of how I wanted to play. I found a way back into the match, found a way to turn the match back in my favor, have a couple of opportunities to serve it out and be within a couple of points, disappointing not to get it done,” Barty said at the press conference after the match.
Rogers, who has never beaten Barty before, made one of the biggest comebacks of the 2021 US Open in the third set. Barty, who was leading 5-2, suddenly found herself being broken, not just once, but twice. Rogers won four consecutive games, taking the lead 6-5 for the first time since the first set.
Even when the tie-breaker began, this could have been anybody’s game. Barty’s serve stunned Rogers, but then she made Barty uncomfortable with her baseline shots, her power and speed.
Rogers won the tie-breaker 7-5, winning against Barty for the first time in the six times they’ve played so far.
“I think when matches get close, and typically towards the end of a third set, I mean, there are so many big moments within little moments. I mean, every point felt like there was a lot riding on it towards the end there. That’s natural. That’s normal for when a match gets so tight towards the end. You know that the finish line for both of you is kind of just there,” Barty said.
And the Arthur Ashe crowd roared with Rogers as she looked around at her box in disbelief. In the on-court interview after, she wiped away tears and thanked the New York crowd for supporting her throughout the match.
“Can’t get any worse. You’ve lost to her every time,” Rogers said at the on-court interview. “Try something different.”
In the fourth round, Rogers will face Britain’s Emma Raducanu, who at 18 years of age is having a breakthrough season, first winning three qualifiers to make the main draw and then dominating against World No. 41 Sara Sorribes Tormo in a 6-0 6-1 win.
Barty, who is coming off of a stellar season winning five titles, will have to wait another year to make it to week two of the US Open. Her best result in Flushing Meadows is reaching the fourth round. Rogers made it to the quarterfinals in 2020.
“The last six months have been a roller coaster. I think back to the very first match that I played on this trip. I was 5-2 down in the third set in the first round of Miami. Tennis has a funny way of evening things out, doesn’t it? I think I’ve played a bunch of matches this year where I’ve come from a break down or late in the set, opponents trying to serve out the match. Sometimes you get to-and-fro.
“You can’t win every single tennis match that you play. I’m proud of myself and my team for all the efforts we’ve put in in the last six months. It’s been pretty incredible. I don’t think we could have asked for much more honestly. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Rogers, during her press conference, sang Barty’s praise, saying she is a great representative of women’s tennis.
“A lot of people are taking it for granted. She hasn’t been able to go home since February, you guys. That’s insane,” Rogers said. “She’s resetting on the road. She’s worked through some injuries on the road. She’s won five titles. She’s remained No. 1. I mean, this girl is everything every player wants to be.”