Sloane Stephens continued her staggering comeback from foot surgery on Tuesday, with the American battling past 16th seed Anastasija Sevastova in an absolutely thrilling contest in the quarterfinals of the US Open.
Stephens, who was ranked outside the top 900 heading into the hard court season, used a protected ranking to enter the main draw and twice found herself a break down to Sevastova, who herself had rallied from a set down, in the final set, though forced her way back and took a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(4) victory in two hours and 28 minutes, with the contest being capped off by a 64 minute final set.
The American has now reached only her second Grand Slam semifinal, with her first coming back at the 2013 Australian Open; this is also the first time she had ever reached the last eight at Flushing Meadows.
Stephens edges Sevastova in compelling contest
Sevastova, who won only two games when she lost at this stage last year, would have been confident after her win over Maria Sharapova and undoubtedly had the advantage in the deciding set, though Stephens roared back to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal in four years.
Stephens got off to the worst start possible, with Sevastova breaking in the opening game, though the American broke straight back and then broke to take the lead, saving break points to take a 4-1 lead in the opening set. After a wobble to begin with, the American was striking the ball beautifully and was extremely solid throughout the opening set. Sevastova was able to put some pressure on the American by forcing her to serve the set out, though Stephens showed no nerves as she took the opening set in fine style.
After a first set that had rather got away from her, Sevastova started to improve in the early stages of the second set. The Latvian was able to break for a 3-1 lead, and consolidated as her increasing aggression was matched by an increase in unforced errors from Stephens, who was not as fluid as she had been in the early stages. The American did save points that would have handed the 16th seed a double break, though could not put too much pressure on Sevastova, who remained solid and forced a decider with a comfortable service game.
Sevastova undoubtedly had the momentum heading into the decider, and that showed as she eased to a 3-1 lead in the third set. The Latvian had a point for a double break lead, though Stephens saved it and then immediately broke back, much to the joy of her home crowd. The Latvian seemingly restored her confidence as she broke for a 4-3 lead, though the American broke back straight away; after such a dramatic few games, four relatively straightforward holds forced a tiebreak.
Stephens got off to the best start, securing a mini break as she took an early 3-1 lead. Sevastova managed to even up proceedings as the American made two unforced errors, though two unforced errors of her own handed Stephens a 5-3 lead. The American lost the mini break due to a forehand error, though an error by the 16th seed and a final backhand winner saw Stephens make the last four.