by Kevin Craig
Shelby Rogers, the 23-year-old American ranked No. 108 in the world, reached her first major quarterfinal at Roland Garros Sunday as she dispatched the No. 25 seed Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4.
Rogers, the second-to-last directly accepted player into the tournament, is making the most of her opportunity as she has now defeated her third seeded opponent in four rounds.
After defeating the No. 17 seed Karolina Pliskova in the first round and the No. 10 seed Petra Kvitova in the third round, Rogers went into her fourth round encounter with Begu brimming with confidence.
“I have done that pretty much this whole tournament, starting with the first round” said Rogers of backing up a big win with another stellar performance. “That was a huge upset for me and kind of set the tone for the last few matches I have played.”
Rogers, who made the final of a clay court tournament in Rio in February of this year, got off to a good start on Sunday, breaking Begu in just the third game of the match to get out to an early lead. That lead would be backed up by a strong serving performance in the first set, as Rogers didn’t face a single break point and only lost one point in her last two service games before grabbing another break at 5-3 to close out the set.
Rogers ensured that she kept playing with the aggressive mindset that she had used to get her to this stage and it was paying dividends so far in the fourth round.
“Keep your game plan and your strategy and keep doing what you have been doing…just keep going after it…It was working in the first, it’s going to work again. So keep doing it,” said Rogers.
After Begu was able to break in the first game of the second set and jump out to a 2-0 lead, Rogers was able to turn the momentum back in her favor with that same strategy, allowing herself to reel off four games in a row, including two breaks and two holds at love, putting herself just two games from the quarterfinals.
The Romanian did not go away, though, breaking Begu back and taking the set to 4-4. Rogers was able to restore order with a hold to go up 5-4, before quickly going up 15-40 and capitalizing on her first break point of the game, getting an unforced error from Begu that gave her the win.
Rogers, who will now take on the No. 4 seed Garbine Muguruza in the quarterfinals, has to keep reminding herself that this isn’t a dream.
“I’m definitely outside of my comfort zone already and I keep telling myself you belong here,” said Rogers. “I’m ready to step up the challenge. I have nothing to lose. I have no pressure. It’s just been a great experience here and I want to keep enjoying it and keep pushing myself.”
Richard Gasquet also had an emotional win on Sunday as he was able to reach his first quarterfinal at the French Open with a four set win over Kei Nishikori, 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
When the rain came and delayed play for a couple hours, Gasquet found himself down a break in the first set. However, once he and Nishikori returned to the court, the Frenchman had everything going his way, and, before he could even realize it, found himself up two sets to love.
“I think this rain interruption did me a world of good because we had a very good chat,” said Gasquet of utilizing his time off the court to discuss strategy with his coach Sergi Bruguera.
Gasquet closed out the second set with a winner off of his majestic one-handed backhand wing and sent the French crowd into a frenzy. That French crowd has been looking for a home champion since Yannick Noah won the title in 1983.
Gasquet, of course, still has three more matches to win, the first of which will be against Andy Murray in the quarterfinals, but reaching the quarterfinals is an achievement in itself for him.
Calling Court Philippe-Chatrier the “biggest stage in the world for a French player,” Gasquet had more than enough motivation to get himself through the match and earn the win.
The match felt like “a Davis Cup match for me today,” said Gasquet. “I admit it made a big difference for me and of course it will be the same on Tuesday, but for sure I need to play a big match.”