Serena Williams’ run of third-set magic ran out Friday, as the top-seeded player at the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., was bounced by Shelby Rogers in the quarterfinals, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5).
After dropping the first set before winning the next two in each of her first two matches in the hard-court tune-up for the U.S. Open, the ninth-ranked Williams appeared heading for an easy win.
But down a set and serving 0-30 with the second set tied 4-4, Rogers -- who is ranked No. 116 in the world -- answered to win the next four points, then break Williams two sets later to even the match at a set apiece.
“It’s every kid’s dream, growing up watching (Williams) play,” Rogers said in her post-match interview, per tennis.com. “Weird circumstances, weird setting. But a win is a win. It’s great to see everyone fit and playing well. I was definitely overwhelmed in the first with the pace and heavy spin. I tried to make a few more balls. The serve was a struggle for me to today, but second serve came through for me when I needed it.”
In the third set, both players held serve through the first 12 games. But service breaks dominated the tiebreaker, where only five of the 12 points were won on serve. Rogers’ fourth break of Williams allowed her to go up 6-4 and ultimately win.
Rogers advances to the semis to face Switzerland’s Jil Belen Teichmann, who beat Catherine Cartan Bellis 6-2, 6-4.
Also on Friday, 16-year-old American Coco Gauff stopped eighth-seeded Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, a day after knocking off the tournament’s second seed in Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka.
Gauff will face fellow American Jennifer Brady in the other semifinal, after Brady swept Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic, 6-1, 6-2. Gauff and Brady have never faced one another on tour.
Top-seeded Simona Halep of Romania had little trouble advancing to the semifinals of the clay-court tournament in the Czech Republic, downing Magdalena Frech of Poland in 59 minutes, 6-2, 6-0.
Halep needed three sets to advance in each of the first two rounds. The 28-year-old will meet the winner of the quarterfinal between fellow Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu and Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo. Their match was suspended by weather with Begu up 6-2, 0-1. It will be completed Saturday.
In the other half of the draw, third-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium knocked off Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard 6-4, 1-6, 6-4, setting up a semifinal against Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic. Pliskova advanced when Romania’s Ana Bogdan retired with a left foot injury after grabbing a 5-2 lead in the first set.
--Field Level Media
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