For a moment, it seemed like another top seed in the women’s draw at the 2022 US Open was going to go home early, but 5th-seed Ons Jabeur battled back from the brink of elimination to defeat American Shelby Rogers 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Rogers had not had an easy run into the third round. She needed three sets to win her first-round match against 96th-ranked Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands before dispatching 183rd-ranked qualifier Viktoria Kuzmova 7-5, 6-1 in the second round.
After winning the first set 6-4, Rogers held a 4-3 advantage in the second set. However, Jabeur won 12 of the next 13 points to close out the second set. Rogers called for a trainer during the changeover between sets and came out looking flustered.
She quickly lost her opening service match without winning a point, including a double fault on the final point, and it all unraveled from there. She went down 5-1 in the third set and was able to win a couple of games to make it respectable, but Jabeur quickly responded to end the match before there was any real threat of a comeback.
For Rogers, her success hinges on her serve. In 2022, she has won 67.4% of points on her first serve and 71.8% of her service games overall. Today, she was only able to get in 54% of her first serves and won just 62% of points on her first serve.
That was more than enough of an opening for a returner like Jabeur. The 28-year-old Tunisian is no stranger to tough matches and was quick to capitalize on Rogers’ miscues. On the day, Jabeur won 47% of her receiving points and broke Rogers five times. Jabeur also hit 39 winners to just 38 unforced errors; meanwhile, Rogers had just 25 winners to 43 unforced errors.
Jabeur will now get a chance to build on a strong season that has seen her claim two singles titles and reach the finals at Wimbledon.
She had come into this tournament with some question marks despite her success at Wimbledon. She was just 2-3 in the WTA tournaments on the hard court circuit this summer, including a loss to 51st-ranked QinwenZheng that saw Jabeur forced to retire with abdominal pain.
However, she has lost just one set so far this US Open and has been a thorn in the side of the Americans, knocking out Madison Brengle in the first round and Elizabeth Mandlik in the second. She’ll now move on to face 18th-seed Veronika Kudermetova who eliminated 91st-ranked Dalma Galfi 6-2, 6-0 on Friday.
Being so close to victory is likely tough for Shelby Rogers, but it’s been an inconsistent year for the 29-year-old overall in 2022. She is 17-17 on the year, including first-round exits at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon. However, she was 6-2 in the two hard court tournaments leading up to the US Open, including a trip to the finals in the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, where she lost in three sets to Daria Kasatkina.
After hanging on the periphery of Grand Slam seeding for a couple of years now, one has to wonder if this would have been Rogers’ best chance to break through for a deep run.
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