An interesting quarterfinal clash at the US Open sees Sloane Stephens, unseeded this year, face 16th seed Anastasija Sevastova for a place in the semifinal of the Women’s Singles draw.
There is certainly a lot of interest heading into this clash, with Stephens continuing her incredible hard court form following her return with injury to reach the last eight at her home Grand Slam tournament for the first time, whilst Sevastova had moved through the draw fairly quietly until she battled past Maria Sharapova yesterday to reach the quarterfinal for the second consecutive year at Flushing Meadows.
This will be the first ever meeting between the two, with Sevastova hoping to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal and Stephens hoping to reach her second, and her first since the 2013 Australian Open. The will face 13th seed Petra Kvitova or ninth seed Venus Williams in the last four.
Road to the last eight
Stephens has generally traveled through the draw with more attention, though Sevastova has played equally as well to set up this intriguing meeting.
After a resurgent summer in Toronto and Cincinnati, Stephens, using her protected ranking to play, started well with a straight sets win over Roberta Vinci, before battling past 11th seed Dominika Cibulkova in three sets to reach the third round. She then eased past Ashleigh Barty to reach the second week, where she edged past 30th seed Julia Goerges to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal since Wimbledon four years ago.
Meanwhile, Sevastova has perfectly dealt with the pressure she faced to defend her quarterfinalist points from 2016. The 16th seed defeated Carina Witthoeft in straight sets in her opening match, before beating qualifier Kateryna Kozlova in similar fashion.
The Latvian then eased past Donna Vekic in an impressive performance to reach the last four, where she came from a set down to upset Sharapova; she will be full of confidence after one of the biggest wins of her career.
One of the most interesting features about this match is that it sees a contrast of styles, with Sevastova’s cunning and crafty game coming up against Stephens’ aggressive style. Sevastova had a lot of success with her style against Sharapova, being able to force errors and exploit her movement and will be aiming to do the same again, though will need to be perfect as Stephens will be unlikely to struggle as much with her slices and drop shots. However, the American can be ragged and was sloppy in her second set against Goerges; she may not be able to afford a dip like that here and must be patient in terms of pulling the trigger.
Arguably another key issue in this match could be serving. Stephens can be a good server, though can struggle at times and must be wary of letting the Latvian take control of points early on, as she could get the American moving around the court and find space to kill off the point. However, serving is perhaps more important for the 16th seed, whose second serve is fairly weak and will be attackable for Stephens, who has the ability to punish her; Sevastova will need to hit as many first serves as possible, and will need to place her serves well to put her opponent out of position.
Considering how well both women have played so far, this is a fairly tough match to call. Stephens may feel the pressure a little in front of her home crowd, though has been in better form than Sevastova over the whole hard court season and may have enough to edge this, though there is an opportunity for the 16th seed as well.
Prediction: Sloane Stephens in three sets