Shelby Rogers looked on the verge of a huge upset win, before her health betrayed her, losing momentum and her third-round US Open match against Ons Jabeur.
The fifth-seeded Jabeur clawed back to pull out a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory that was stomach-churning, with the Tunisian appearing to get nauseous in a corner of Louis Armstrong Court during the decisive third and final set.
But Jabeur recovered and has become the bane of the American women in this year’s tourney, after beating Madison Brengle in the first round, Elizabeth Mandlik in the second and now No. 31 Rogers.
It was the last that pushed the Wimbledon finalist to the brink, despite being less than 100% with an arm injury.
“I had a little forearm thing,” Rogers told the Post. “But Ons played incredible, and her biggest strength is being able to make you very uncomfortable on the court. If you’re playing well she’ll change up the rhythm and try to get you to play worse, and she does that very well. I would’ve liked to be a little better physically, but I give all credit to Ons because she played a very, very solid match.”
After breaking Jabeur three times to take the first set 6-4, the South Carolinian kept on the pressure in the second. Rogers – who reached last year’s fourth round before falling to eventual champ Emma Raducanu – looked poised to pull off the upset and return to the second week.
Rogers led 4-3 in the second; but that’s when she dropped a dozen of the next 13 points to watch Jabeur snatch the second set. She called for a trainer during the changeover between sets, and returned to the court visibly out-of-sorts.
“It’s been the whole tournament, to be honest,” Rogers told the Post. “(But) that’s our job…We prepare our bodies as best we can and, and leave it on the court. And that’s what I’m going to do every single match regardless of how I’m feeling, and try to give the fans a good show and make it worth their ticket.”
Jabeur quickly broke her twice in the third to race out to a 4-0 lead behind impressive power and baseline defense.
Down 5-1, Rogers tried to rally, saving five match points to hold. Then the broke to make it 5-3 and shift the pressure onto Jabeur, who has always had problems holding her nerves.
The Tunisian has gotten queasy before, and did again in the corner of the court. But when she returned, she composed herself and closed out the match. With Shelby serving, she fell behind love-40; and facing her sixth match point, this one she couldn’t wriggle out of, sailing a shot wide right to end it.
“I was like ‘You better suck it up right here and try to give something’ because I was hoping some sort of miracle would happen,” Rogers told the Post. “I wanted to fight for every single point to the end and really make her earn it ‘til the last point. So I feel like I did that.”
Jabeur is now just a win away from reaching her 11th quarterfinal this year, albeit in her first ever Round of 16 here. She’ll be favored vs. Veronika Kudermetova, despite being 0-3 against her.
“The pressure on her. She always won against me, and now I really need to listen to what Issam (Jellali) has to say to really figure out how I’m gonna win this one,” said Jabeur. “In Grand Slams sometimes you just have to keep fighting and just get the win, even playing ugly.”
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