As the action wrapped up at the 12th Annual Boyd Tinsley Clay Court Classic on a rainy Sunday at The Boar’s Head Sports Club, 20-year-old Shelby Rogers addressed the crowd after a truly grueling couple of days.
“I had a great week here,” she said to the fans, many of whom were around all week to see another tremendous event, which highlights some of the world’s best talent in Central Virginia’s own backyard.
On Sunday, Rogers rallied from a three-game, second-set deficit en route to claiming the singles title with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Allie Kiick, and then joined Nicole Gibbs in the doubles final, where the pair fell to Coco Vandeweghe and Nicola Slater, 6-3, 7-6 (4).
In singles, Rogers went up a break early in the first set and held on, and then got behind 4-1 in the second before storming back. Kiick admitted she was quite confident that she could force a third set at that point, but the South Carolinian claimed the next 10 points and 12 of the next 13 to tie it at 4-4 as rain began falling.
The match was originally slated for a noon start, but tournament organizers decided to move it up an hour to 11 a.m., and the move paid off as the skies opened up toward the end of singles competition.
“[Rogers] just played a heck of a game, and throughout the whole rest of the set, she just played really well,” said Kiick.
Added Rogers of the important comeback: “I knew after the first set, [Kiick] was going to come out strong. She’s got a really great game and I knew she wasn’t going to give up… I knew that if I could just stay with it, I still had a chance, and I tried to take it one point at a time and gladly took some errors, a few here and there. But, I mean, it wasn’t easy. I just tried to stay calm and not get nervous, and luckily it paid off today.”
The following game was a long and important one, and each competitor fought hard for each and every point. Kiick wound up breaking Rogers’ serve to go ahead 5-4, but the 17-year-old – playing in her first $50,000 tournament final – would not win another game. She later took it all in stride, saying that if she had to choose who she would lose her first big final to, it would be Rogers.
Rogers (who actually had dinner with Kiick on Saturday night) broke right back, and proceeded to take 12 of the match’s final 14 points en route to her second career USTA Pro Circuit singles title, and she added that she was elated that her family and friends were able to watch the live stream online and see her play.
“I have to say this one might be a little more special because I had to work really hard throughout all the matches, and it’s a great place and a great event, and it’s really special to take the title,” Rogers said. “Everyone’s been really supportive all week and I felt really comfortable and welcomed.”
In addition, Rogers vaulted to the top of the Har-Tru Wild Card Challenge standings, which grants one female and one male competitor a wild card to compete in the main draw of next month’s French Open. The Tinsley is the second of three clay-court events on tour (this coming week’s $50,000 Audi Melbourne Pro Classic in Indian Harbour Beach, Fla., is the third and final such event) where players can earn points.
“It’s great afterwards,” Rogers said of the added success. “I tried not to think about that while I was playing – it kind of adds a little bit of stress and pressure, but now I can enjoy it. We still have another week; anything can happen next week so I still have to stay focused… I can’t be too excited yet, but I’ll enjoy it for a little bit.”
Rogers had very little time to celebrate her singles victory, as she took the indoor courts due to the weather at around 1:40 p.m. to warm up for the doubles match. Vandeweghe and Slater grabbed a 3-1 lead and eventually wrapped up the first set just after a hilarious moment on the court.
Vandeweghe and Slater had each slipped while pursuing a shot, and Vandeweghe had the quick presence of mind to attempt to make contact from a seated position on the court. To her surprise and the crowd’s amusement, the ball landed in play on the opposite side of the net, so she proceeded to get back on her feet and went on to win the point, while all four competitors and everyone in attendance was laughing or smiling at what had transpired.
“Well, I can’t say I’ve ever played such an interesting, fun match, and between me falling in the middle of the court and making a volley from my butt and all that other stuff… I had a great time here in Charlottesville and I can’t wait to come back next year,” laughed Vandeweghe during her award ceremony afterwards.
The second set was all knotted up before Gibbs and Rogers held serve to take a 6-5 advantage, and were one game away from forcing a 10-point tiebreak to decide the match. That possibility seemed more realistic after Slater double-faulted twice, and Gibbs and Rogers were just two points away. However, Vandeweghe and Slater battled back to make it 6-6 and then jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead in the deciding tiebreak. Vandeweghe’s serve on match point was a laser that Rogers was able to return, but the ball made contact with the white tarp overhead and was ruled out of play.
Tinsley was unable to present trophies to this year’s winners in person, as the Dave Matthews Band is on tour and played a concert in New Orleans on Saturday night.
Rogers and the rest of the field were nonetheless appreciative of Tinsley’s sponsorship all week long, and she added that her brand new Tag Heuer watch – which she admitted she doesn’t even want to remove from its box – was the icing on the cake for a memorable week of tennis in Central Virginia.