Latvian Anastasija Sevastova, the No.19 seed has ended the title defence of No.3 seed Sloane Stephens of the United States, with a stunning 6-2, 6-3 upset in the quarterfinals of the 2018 US Open. on a sweltering Tuesday afternoon.
The match on a sweltering Tuesday afternoon was a rematch. Twenty-five year-old Stephens had squeaked past Sevastova in the same round last year en route to her maiden Grand Slam title.
But this year, it was Sevastova who prevailed in 83 minutes, becoming the first player representing Latvia to reach the final four at the US Open.
Sevastova, who is 28, made the first Grand Slam semifinal of her career by hitting 18 winners to 13 for Stephens, while firing only one more unforced error than the American. Most importantly, Sevastova converted five of eight break points, while saving seven of the nine against her.
In the semifinals, Sevastova will face the winner of the Tuesday night quarterfinal between two former World No.1 players, six-time US Open champion Serena Williams of the United States or 2016 US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic
Stephens said she was proud despite her failure to repeat U.S. Open triumph
She said she learnt the hard way on Tuesday that the path to retaining a Grand Slam title is littered with obstacles, including a sauna-like court at Flushing Meadows and sinus infection.
But the 25-year-old American, added that she would not lose any sleep over her failed bid at a repeat or let it affect her fighting spirit going forward.
“I could have hit the bed (lost) in the first round, and that would have been really bad,” Stephens, who is projected to drop five spots to eighth in the world rankings, told reporters.
“So the fact that I made it to the quarter-finals and played some really good matches and I just competed as hard as I could, I mean (there’s) a lot to be proud of.
” Stephens’ triumph over friend and compatriot Madison Keys in last year’s final capped a remarkable comeback from injury.
She recovered from foot surgery that forced her to miss most of the season and from a ranking that had fallen to nearly 1,000 to win her first Grand Slam all inside a year.
Stephens returned to New York with a spring in her step amid hopes of becoming the first woman to retain a Grand Slam title since Serena Williams triumphed at Wimbledon in 2015 and 2016.
Having reached her second Grand Slam final at this year’s French Open before an encouraging tune-up to Flushing Meadows, Stephens was considered a favorite.
She was cruising through her quarter of the draw until a bad sinus infection, sweltering playing conditions and the tenacious Sevastova got the better of her in the last eight.
But even though her first Grand Slam title Defence did not work out as she envisioned, the experience will be invaluable to Stephens, who hopes to put in a strong finish to the season.
“Defending a title is very hard, very difficult. … I made the most of it this week or the last… 10 days, whatever it was,” said Stephens. “I can be proud of a lot of things that happened the last couple, the matches that I played, so I’m not going to dwell on it. Just keep building.
“There’s four more tournaments left. I’m just going to try to play the rest of the season as hard as I can and hopefully have some more good results.”