Since the WTA Tour resumed in August, American Shelby Rogers has enjoyed two of the biggest wins of her career.
In her first tournament back – the Top Seed Open – Rogers defeated Serena Williams in a third-set tiebreak. Then, at the US Open earlier this month, Rogers saved four match points to defeat two-time Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova in the round of 16. (Rogers lost to eventual champion Naomi Osaka in the quarterfinals.)
Given the high-pressure nature of her wins against both Williams and Kvitova, it is no surprise to learn that Rogers used the tour’s pause to focus on improving her mental strength. “With all the isolation time, there’s plenty of time to work on the mental side of the game,” the South Carolina native explained in an interview on Wednesday.
When COVID-19 halted the season, Rogers returned to her home in Pompano Beach, Florida. She says having so much uninterrupted time allowed her to evaluate her own play in a different way. “I was able to watch a lot of video of my matches from earlier in the year,” she explains. “I had time to sit down and get a little more analytical than when I’m traveling on a plane or always on the go.”
She also spent more time writing in her journal. The 27-year-old says the process of writing things down – always using pen and paper – helps her understand her own thought process better.
Like many athletes, Rogers had to get devise unorthodox workouts while stuck at home. She was able to play tennis thanks to a friend’s private court, but some of her strength workouts were less conventional. “I just had to get really creative,” she says. “I was messing around, benching milk cartons and stuff like that. I just tried to keep it fun and keep my motivation level up.”
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Officially losing it over here 😂💪🏼🤪@raw10sperform ・・・ Not exactly how I programmed it but @shelbsrogers putting in work at home!! #stayhome #staysafe #stayhomestaysafe #covid_19 #athomeworkouts #wtatennis #wtatour #atptennis #atptour #itftennis #improvise #shelterinplace #itseasiernottobegreat #repost
Momentum, so often a theme in tennis, was also at stake.
In March of 2018, Rogers sustained a knee injury so serious that – six months after surgery – she thought she might never play again. She ultimately returned to competition in April 2019, but says it wasn’t until the start of this year that she felt her game was close to where it was pre-injury. “And so I wanted to keep that momentum going,” she explains.
Rogers, who turned pro after high school, is also close to achieving another goal: graduating from college. She is currently finishing up a degree in psychology from Indiana University East and expects to graduate in the spring. She says she picked her classes based on both what will help her tennis career and for whatever comes after. She’s currently taking a class called “Psychology of Learning,” where she is studying how behavior is influenced and changed. In a different class, “Social Problems and Policies,” she is examining how the media reports social issues. “Super appropriate right now,” she notes.
Heading into the French Open, Rogers, a Tampa Bay Lightning super fan, has dealt with one issue: her current time zone doesn’t facilitate watching the Stanley Cup Final (games start at 2am Paris time).