Anastasija Sevastova succeeded in preventing Maria Sharapova from what would have been a dream run to the US Open quarter-finals by a score of 5-7 6-4 6-2. The #17 seed built on a catalogue of errors from the Russian five-time Grand Slam champion, using the drop shot to great effect throughout the match and capitalising on what was a tired performance from Sharapova.
Sharapova looked like she was cruising to victory, after taking the first set 7-5, but Sevastova pounced on an early break opportunity in the second set, and never really looked like relinquishing her subsequent lead from the second set into the third. The Latvian’s game plan was clear: to vary her shots and to force Sharapova into the net at every opportunity. Sharapova’s poor volleying let her down at key moments in the match, and her drive-volleys were uncharacteristically off-key.
Sharapova’s game was littered with unforced errors throughout, and it seemed as though she suffered with fatigue as the match wore on, calling the trainer over on two occasions in the third set. Despite her poor form, however, Sharapova demonstrated glimpses of the fight and steely determination that saw her claim five Grand Slam titles, saving two match points in the final game of the match, before finally succumbing to her opponent. Although she crashes out at the fourth round stage, Sharapova can be pleased with her tournament, having competed in a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in fifteen months, beating Simona Halep on the way.
Sevastova, on the other hand, will face crowd favourite Sloane Stephens in the quarter-finals, in what promises to be an enticing match between two contrasting playing styles. If she can show some of the same grit, determination, and variety in her game as she did today, we could be staring at a potential dark horse in this competition.