Americans Jennifer Brady and Shelby Rogers have reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open, a run that neither of them could have seen coming at the start of the year, but one they believe they have earned.
Both gained a lot of confidence in taking out Grand Slam champions in the fourth round on Sunday, Brady beating Angelique Kerber, 6-1, 6-4, and Rogers fighting off match points to defeat Petra Kvitova, 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-6 (6).
On Tuesday Brady, seeded 28th, meets 23rd seed Yulia Putintseva while Rogers, unseeded, comes up against the fourth seed and 2018 Open champion Naomi Osaka.
When Brady reached the fourth round of the Australian and U.S. Opens in 2017, she didn’t believe she should be there.
Less than two years after leaving UCLA to pursue an uncertain future as a tennis pro, grinding through the lower levels of the game and taking small strides upward, there weren’t enough reasons to believe she was good enough in 2017.
“I don't think I was really ready physically or mentally to make the fourth round of two slams in one year,” Brady said. “Definitely came as a huge surprise to me. Honestly, I didn't really believe that I belonged at that level or that it was achievable for me.”
Taking on new coach Michael Gesere last fall who also brought along a new physical trainer, Brady has now has a solid foundation for success.
“To be honest, I wasn't ready mentally or physically before it,” said the 25-year-old Brady, who won her first WTA Tour event this year at Lexington. “And, you know, starting the beginning of the year, I felt like a different player. I'm not putting expectations on myself but also not surprised when I'm doing well at a tournament.”
The 27-year-old Rogers, ranked 93 in the world, has never won a WTA tournament and in 2018 faced the prospect of not playing the game again after knee surgery. She had reached the quarterfinals of the 2016 French Open and that might have been the highlight of her career. But some serious rehab and serious determination has brought her back to a very good place.
“I think it's nice to have those memories coming back, remember that time,” Brady said. “It was a very special moment for me. Maybe it will help me a little bit. I'd like to do one, two [rounds] better than I did last time at the French Open. It's nice to be back there. I told myself coming back after injury, you can get back to where you've been before, you've done it, and go even farther.”
This is an Open without spectators during the COVID-19 pandemic. Brady’s match with Kvitova in Armstrong Stadium would have been filled with fans cheering on the home country favorite and Brady says she would have embraced that.
But in this big moment, the emptiness of the tennis center allows her to concentrate on the fullness of her job at hand.
“It's maybe easier to stay kind of out of the spotlight, not make it such a big deal,” Rogers said. “It's a quarterfinal. I mean, that's a huge deal for me, but at the same time you can just treat it like any other match.”
Yes, except it’s still the U.S. Open.
Russian-born American Sofia Kenin, the No. 2 seed, lost to No. 16 Elise Mertens of Belgium, 6-3, 6-3, in a night match Monday.