If someone had predicted Anastasija Sevastova to win the US Open, it would have been met with laughter two weeks ago. However, with the tournament nearing its end, the Latvian has made the semifinals against the odds. She has showcased her fantastic form with an unlikely straight sets victory over the defending champion Sloane Stephens (6-2 6-3). Now, just two matches separate the underdog from a Grand Slam title.
Sevastova’s run looked unlikely
Even before the draw was made, things didn’t look bright for the Liepaja-born player. In her last pre-tournament matches, she failed to make any sort of mark on Stephens in Montreal or Camila Giorgi in the first round in Cincinnati. To make matters worse, she reached the quarterfinals in New York in the past two years. This meant she must have felt pressure to retain her ranking points and keep herself inside the top twenty. To top it off, Sevastova had an extremely difficult draw. The #19 seed had a difficult battle in the first round against up-and-coming Donna Vekic and once again in the third round against Ekaterina Makarova, winning both in three sets.
Then things were taken up a notch. She had to battle hard against one of the best players on tour in Elina Svitolina. Despite winning the first set, Sevastova was easily beaten in the second and looked down and out. Yet rather miraculously, she gave the Ukrainian a bagel in the final set to win with the odd scoreline 6-3 1-6 6-0. Not many people had predicted the Latvian to have come through that match, and even less predicted her to beat Stephens. Not even any of our own writers managed to predict so.
She did the unexpected sensibly
Sevastova may not have the most power, but she does have the brains. She used this to her advantage as her variety got into the American’s head, forcing her to hit errors. She always knew what to do and had the perfect shot selection. Moreover, she possibly has the best drop shot on tour. It even rattled Sloane, who is one of the best movers on tour, if not the best.
In their last match up, Sevastova was not sensible at all. She used the drop shot too often and not well enough, allowing Stephens to come forward to hit winners all the time. This helped the World #3 win 6-2 6-2 that time. However, this time the first-time semifinalist pulled off the drop shot at the most random of times, meaning Stephens couldn’t even reach the ball.
Sevastova has to repeat her performance
Her tactics worked perfectly well against Stephens, meaning she will have the employ them again in the semifinal. However, she faces a different sort of battle this time. While Sloane Stephens is more of a counter puncher, her next opponent (Serena Williams or Karolina Pliskova) will be a big hitter. This means she will have to provide even more variety, as she won’t just want to have to defend from the baseline. While Serena and Pliskova can be fast, they certainly aren’t as agile as Stephens and won’t be able to chase down her crafty shots.
Her win over Stephens was arguably the biggest of her career. While she has enjoyed lots of success, she has been stuck at around #20 for a while now. She rarely used to come out on top against the best in the world. Now, this win will propel her up her rankings by giving her so much more confidence. She has shown that she deserves to be among the elite, and possibly even win the tournament.
Embed from Getty Images