Serena falls to 116th-ranked Rogers at US Open

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Serena Williams suffered her first loss since 2012 to a rival outside the WTA’s top 100, falling to fellow American Shelby Rogers in a Friday night’s quarter-final at the Top Seed Open.

Rogers, ranked 116th, outlasted ninth-ranked Williams 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) after two hours and seven minutes, finishing the 23-time Grand Slam champion with a service winner.

“It’s every kid’s dream growing up to be able to do something like that,” Rogers said. “Weird circumstances. Weird surroundings. But a win is a win.”

The US Open hardcourt tuneup event at Lexington, Kentucky, is being staged in a quarantine bubble due to the COVID-19 pandemic that had kept Williams idle since a February Fed Cup appearance.

Top seed Williams had not lost to a player outside the top 100 since falling to France’s Virginie Razzano in the first round of the 2012 French Open.

ABOVE & BELOW: Serena Williams in action against Shelby Rogers during the WTA tennis tournament. PHOTOS: AP

Williams, who ousted sister Venus on Thursday, was playing matches to prepare for the US Open, which starts on August 31. She will seek a seventh title on the New York hardcourts to match Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam crowns.

“I have only good things to take,” Williams said. “I can play a lot better.”

Rogers reached her first WTA semi-final since Rio in 2016. She’ll face 63rd-ranked Swiss left-hander Jil Teichmann, who ousted American Catherine Bellis 6-2, 6-4.

The other semi-final will send American Jen Brady – who ousted Czech Marie Bouzkova 6-1, 6-2 – against US teen Coco Gauff, who won 10 of the last 11 games to rally past Tunisian eighth seed Ons Jabeur 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.

A rain delay of two hours and 45 minutes postponed her match, but Williams showed no sign the wait had put the 38-year-old mother off her game. Williams broke for a 2-0 lead by forcing an errant Rogers backhand, broke again in the sixth game when Rogers netted a forehand and held on a service winner to claim the opening set after only 26 minutes.

“Definitely a little overwhelmed in the first with that pace,” Rogers said of Williams and her powerful serve. “Tried to hit a few more volleys in the second, just hit one more ball.”

Rogers, who never faced a break point in the last two sets, broke on her third chance in the last game of the second set when Williams netted a forehand.

Both players held serve into the tie-breaker, where Williams jumped ahead 3-1, only to have Rogers run off four straight points, two on Serena’s serve, to seize the lead for good.

Williams netted a backhand to give Rogers two match points, but saved the first with a service winner only to fall when Rogers answered with a service winner of her own.

Rogers, who will return to the WTA top 100 next week, was in her first quarter-final since May 2017, due in part to a long absence after a 2018 left knee injury.