Nobody beats Shelby Rogers six times in a row
American Shelby Rogers was possibly searching for some inspiration when she watched a 41-year-old video of compatriot Vitas Gerulaitis before her third round match against world number one Ash Barty on Saturday.
"And let that be a lesson to you all. Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row," the former world number three famously told reporters after beating Jimmy Connors in the semi-finals of the January 1980 Masters.
That was Gerulaitis' first win against Connors after losing 16 matches in a row against his fellow American. Rogers was to play Australian Barty on Saturday for the sixth time in her career having lost all five previous meetings, including four in the 2021 season.
Things seemed to be following a similar pattern when the 28-year-old trailed 5-2 in the deciding third set but she then scripted one of the sport's most incredible comebacks to force a tie-break and beat the two-time major winner from Australia.
"This morning I was watching a video of Vitas Gerulaitis when he said, 'Nobody beats me 17 times in a row'. I was only at six, so," Rogers said in her post-match interview on court before breaking into laughter.
Rogers is currently ranked 43rd in the world and many a time this season has seen her progress stalled at the hands of the gritty Australian, who has won five singles titles in 2021. But the American decided to do things a bit differently. "I guess I have to thank her for teaching me a lot of lessons," Rogers, the only American left in the U.S. Open women's draw, told reporters before another round of laughter.
After tackling two U.S. Open debutants, Novak Djokovic faced an old foe on Saturday, reaching the fourth round with a 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win over Kei Nishikori to stay on course for a record 21st major title that would complete the calendar Grand Slam. "So far the toughest match of the tournament for me," said Djokovic. "The opening two rounds obviously felt well, played good. But the pace of the ball and the speed of Nishikori's tennis today was just higher than the opening two rounds' opponents that I had."