Ashleigh Barty, the world No 1 and defending Wimbledon champion, is out of the
US Open after a 6-2, 1-6, 7-5 (5) defeat to unseeded Shelby Rogers of the United
States in the third round.
Rogers, the world No 43 who had lost all five of her previous career meetings with
Barty including four this year, trailed 5-2 and a double break in the third set before
fighting back to force a tiebreaker amid a delirious Saturday night crowd at Arthur
Ashe Stadium is squarely behind the last American standing in the women’s draw.
The players held their serve throughout the first 10 points of the decisive tie-break
until Barty finally blinked with an overcooked forehand early in the rally to go match
point down. When Barty then sent a backhand return sailing past the baseline after
2hr 9min, a wide-eyed Rogers dropped her racket and stood with her hands over her
mouth in disbelief. One night after third-seeded Naomi Osaka’s shock loss to the
Canadian teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez on the same court, the exit of the top-
seeded Australian throws the US Open women’s tournament wide open.
“It’s never nice when you have a couple of opportunities to serve out a match and
can’t get it done,” an upbeat Barty said in the aftermath. “It’s a tough one to swallow.
But it is what it is tonight. I found a way back into my match. I found a way to really
turn it in my favour and just wasn’t able to just quite finish off. It’s disappointing but
we’ll move on.”
Barty had appeared to right the ship following a ragged opening set in which she
made 17 unforced errors, mostly off the forehand side. She breezed through the
second to level the match, broke Rogers early in the third and then again at love for
5-2. But while serving for a spot in the second week of the tournament, Barty made
four more unforced errors including her seventh double fault, opening a door for
Rogers that she would soon kick down.
“I told myself I didn’t want to lose the same way I lost the last five times against her,”
said the 28-year-old Rogers, whose emphasis on variety within the points marked a
tactical shift from their previous five meetings. “I just tried to do things a little bit
differently. In the first set I mixed in some high balls, I was super patient with her
slice because she’s not going to miss one very often. I know that very well.
“In the second and third, she definitely raised her level, as she does. I mean, she’s the
No 1 player in the world for a reason. But I started wanting to hit the ball a little bit
harder, find some winners if I could. That’s the tennis I like to play. That’s what she
wants me to do. She wants to redirect and finesse me around the court, wait for me to
“I was just happy and really proud of myself tonight for problem-solving if you will,
maybe doing some things I’m not super comfortable with, like hitting some high balls
like I’m back in the 12s, playing defence honestly.”
Barty, who has never made it past the fourth round at Flushing Meadows, entered this
year’s US Open poised to make a run at her first hard-court major title following
previous wins on clay and grass, having won her second career WTA 1000 title on the
surface this year and 25 of 28 matches on American pavement since the start of 2019.
But at the back end of a peripatetic season that’s seen the 25-year-old from Ipswich
lead the women’s tour in titles won (five), match wins (42), finals reached (six) and
wins over top-10 opponents (seven) despite not having been home since February,
Barty refused to hang her head over Saturday’s outcome.
“There’s a lot tonight that’s disappointing, but a lot that’s positive,” said Barty, who is
guaranteed to remain at No 1 in the world rankings for a 93rd week at the conclusion
of the tournament regardless of the winner. “Not a match that I’ll dwell on for too
long in the sense that there are so many ‘what ifs’. Millimeters could have changed
things tonight. You accept that in tennis. That’s the way the cookie crumbles
sometimes and you move on it from it pretty quick.”
The unexpected result ends Australia’s hopes in the singles in New York after Ajla
Tomljanović suffered a 6-3, 6-2 third-round loss earlier Saturday to power-serving
Czech Karolína Plíšková, the No 4 seed and 2016 US Open finalist who becomes the
highest seeded player in the top half of the draw with Barty’s departure.