Shelby Rogers earned a spot in the U.S. Open by winning the Fifth Third Bank Tennis Championships on Sunday at UK's Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex. She defeated Julie Coin of France in straight sets 6-4, 7-6 (3).
"Very excited that I played well today," Rogers said after the match. "I knew it was gonna be a battle. She's not an easy opponent."
Rogers said she can finally think about playing in the U.S. Open, which runs from Aug. 26 to Sept. 9 in New York. The Fifth Third victory gave her the best results of U.S. females in the United States Tennis Association Challenger circuit, earning a wild card directly into the main draw of the major tournament.
She said after her opening-match win that the wild card was something that was in the back of her mind, and that she wanted to take it one match at a time.
"It's incredible," said Rogers, who also competed in the main draw in 2010 after earning a wild-card spot. She lost to Peng Shuai in the first round 6-7, 7-6, 6-3.
"It's my favorite slam for sure," Rogers said. "Being an American there, it's hard to beat. The atmosphere is incredible, the fans are awesome and just the whole experience is unlike any other. ... It'll be nice to be back on the big stage and I think it's the best I've played in my career. I've got a career-high ranking (143rd) so I'm looking to do some damage there for sure."
But before Rogers could finally set her sights on the U.S. Open, she had to take care of Coin. Rogers knew it would be a tough match, having split their two matches against each other previously.
Rogers and Coin went back and forth throughout the afternoon, neither wanting to give up a break. With the score 3-3 in the first set Rogers was finally able to break Coin's serve.
"I was trying to just keep with her a little bit," Coin said. "I was trying to fight just to stay close to her with the score and eventually I was hoping she would get tired, but she didn't."
In the second set Rogers broke Coin's serve again, but Coin managed to send the set to a tiebreaker.
"I definitely felt her game elevate in the second (set) and thankfully I could take the tiebreak but I knew she wasn't going to give me an inch in the second so I had to fight for it," Rogers said.
The tiebreaker was close at 2-2 until Rogers rattled off three straight points and then took five of six points to win the match.
Ward rallies in men's finals
In the men's finals, James Ward of Great Britain defeated James Duckworth of Austrailia. Ward fell in the first set 6-4 but then won the next two 6-3, 6-4.
"I started slow and obviously he was playing well," Ward, the second-highest ranked British player after Andy Murray, said. "He had a game plan a little bit different to how he's played me in the past so I just had to adjust."
Duckworth said that the quality of his serve was a factor in the loss.
"I didn't serve so well today which cost me because he was able to get a look at a lot of second serves," Duckworth said. "I think if I'd have served better I think I'd have a chance."
Duckworth had six aces on the day, including three in the first set. By comparison, he had 12 aces in a match two weeks ago and 19 in his opening-round loss at Wimbledon.
Leigh Dannhauser: (859)231-3447