World No 1 Ash Barty has crashed out of the US Open with a shock third-round collapse against inspired American Shelby Rogers. Barty blew a 5-2 double-break lead in the deciding set of a 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (7-5) defeat to the 43rd-ranked Rogers at Flushing Meadows.
Barty had beaten the unseeded 28-year-old in their previous five encounters, including four times this season, leaving even Rogers open-mouthed in disbelief after her stunning comeback win.
The Wimbledon champion’s unexpected exit ends Australia’s hopes in the singles in New York, after Ajla Tomljanović suffered a 6-3, 6-2 third-round loss to power-serving Czech Karolína Plíšková earlier in the day.
But Barty’s departure, after defending champion Naomi Osaka’s similarly surprising demise on Friday against Canadian teen Leylah Fernandez, has turned the women’s draw on its head.
Revelling under the bright lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Labor Day in the US, Rogers set the tone by taking the opening set in just 31 minutes. In perhaps her loosest game of the year, Barty coughed up four double-faults to gift Rogers the first break of the match and wound up with 17 unforced errors by the end of the first set alone.
Rarely one to show emotion on court, a first-pumping Barty let out a huge roar after breaking Rogers for the first time with a blistering forehand pass in the fourth game of the second set.
Raising her serving performance, Barty held for 4-1 and levelled the match up with a second break amid a run of seven straight games won that appeared to have turned the match around. Rogers dropped serve to love to fall 5-2 behind in the third set but, not finished yet, broke straight back, then again to draw level.
Pleading with the the delirious home crowd to will her to victory, Rogers did just that, claiming the biggest win of her career when Barty sent a backhand return wide after two hours and eight minutes of drama.
Meanwhile, Plíšková rocketed down 20 aces in just nine service games to abruptly end Tomljanović’s breakout grand-slam season. A Wimbledon quarter-finalist six weeks ago, Tomljanovic had been bidding to reach the second week at successive slams for the first time in her nine-year pro career.
But despite plenty of heavy hitting from the baseline, the 28-year-old was unable to make any inroads on Plíšková’s nigh-on impenetrable serve.
The WTA’s new 2021 ace leader, having eclipsed Barty during this tournament, Plíšková claimed the first break of the match on a Tomljanović double-fault in the sixth game to forge a 4-2 lead.
A finalist at Flushing Meadows in 2016 and runner-up to Barty at Wimbledon this year, Plíšková then offset three doubles of her own with four aces to consolidate the break. Surging in confidence after taking the first set, the aces continued to flow from the Czech’s racquet in the second.
The relentless pressure on Tomljanović told when the Australian No 2 missed a routine overhead to hand the fourth seed a second break. It was all over after only 71 minutes as Plíšková stormed into the last 16 in New York for the fifth time in the past six years.