16th seed Anastasija Sevastova upsets 2006 US Open champion Maria Sharapova, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the US Open quarterfinal for the second year in succession inside the Arthur Ashe Stadium. The Latvian will face Sloane Stephens in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, and the 27-year-old will be hoping to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal.
Sevastova is no stranger to the Arthur Ashe Stadium as she upset Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza and Johanna Konta in the second round and fourth respectively to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. The Latvian was unable to replicate her performance in the quarterfinal as she suffered a foot injury, after falling over in her match with Caroline Wozniacki.
The former world number one began proceedings inside the Arthur Ashe Stadium with the roof now opened as it was closed for the men’s fourth round clash between Denis Shapovalov and 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta. Sharapova was taken to deuce but she held onto her serve, and Sevastova responded with a hold to love, leveling proceedings at 1-1.
The five-time Grand Slam champion was bidding to reach just her fourth quarterfinal in Flushing Meadows and first since 2012, and she was increasingly likely to do it, as she held to love in her next game and broke Sevastova’s serve to lead 3-1.
There was a chance for last year’s quarterfinalist to get the immediate break back but the unseeded Russian fended it off, and she eventually clinched the game with her big serve going down the middle, coupled with a forehand winner down the line to lead 4-1.
However, the Latvian remained a thorn in Sharapova’s side as she continued to mix up the play by playing slices and forcing to bring Sharapova to the net, which she was very uncomfortable at. Despite leading 40-15 on serve, the 16th seed broke back as the Russian’s wild volley sailed out of the tramlines to get the match back on serve at 4-3.
Both players remained untroubled on serve but the scoreboard pressure was firmly back on Sevastova’s shoulders as Sharapova had a 6-5 lead. It was too much for the Latvian to handle as the five-time Grand Slam champion amped up the pressure in the returning game, and she clinched the opening set with a forehand crosscourt return winner down the line, 7-5 in 51 minutes.
Sevastova fights back to clinch the second set
The former world number one was in her stride as she held onto her serve in the opening game of the second set with ease, and she had the chance to break Sevastova’s serve, however, the Russian netted a backhand in the net, and Sevastova got onto the scoreboard, by playing a delightful disguised drop shot winner to level the second set at 1-1.
Moreover, the pendulum was swinging as the 16th seed broke Sharapova’s serve, and a ray of errors from the 2006 US Open champion’s serve and she consolidated the break to love to lead 3-1. Sevastova was having joy in this fourth round clash as she was causing more problems for Sharapova with slices and drop shots.
Furthermore, the Latvian fended off two more break points and she stretched out her lead to 5-3, which surprised the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd, who were supporting the former champion. The Russian forced Sevastova to serve out the first set, as she held onto her serve to love. The 16th seed, who is currently ranked at 17 in the world, one of her career-high ranking served out for the second set with a big serve down the middle, clinching it 6-4 in 46 minutes.
The Latvian sends Sharapova out of the US Open
At the conclusion of the second set, Sharapova took a bathroom break in order to change her clothes but it did not spoil Sevastova’s momentum as the Latvian immediately broke the Russian’s serve, with Sharapova committing two double faults. Last year’s quarterfinalist was running away with the final set as she held to love, and she won her fourth successive game by breaking the 2006 champion’s serve to love, leading 3-0.
At the first sit down of the final set, Sharapova received a medical timeout on her fingers as she had a blister, which may have hampered her performance in the early goings of the decisive final set. However, the 16th seed was unable to consolidate the double break as nerves were kicking in as Sharapova retrieved one of the breaks back by virtue of an untimely double fault.
The 2006 champion was building some momentum as she quickly followed that break with a hold to love, and quickly received some more treatment on her fingers. Furthermore, that did not bother Sevastova as Sharapova continued to commit uncharacteristic unforced despite bossing the rallies in some points.
There was not going to be a second US Open title in Sharapova’s trophy cabinet as the Latvian broke the Russian’s serve to lead 5-2, and despite saving three match points, the former world number one’s quest for a sixth Grand Slam title ended as Sevastova served big out wide, followed by a crosscourt backhand winner, out of reach, clinching victory, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 in two hours and 16 minutes to reach a second consecutive quarterfinal at the US Open.
Sevastova’s best moments have come at the US Open and she enjoys playing in the biggest tennis arena in the world. “Playing on Ashe, it’s an amazing atmosphere every time I’m here. It makes it fun to play here.” The Latvian spoke about coming back from a set down. “The first set was very close. It could have gone either way. I think she played unbelievable throughout the first and second set. I just keep fighting, I was running at every ball.”
The 16th seed will face the USA’s Sloane Stephens in the quarterfinals, and it the American’s third Grand Slam quarterfinals appearance. “She has had a great summer. She is playing so well on the hard courts in America. So I hope it is going to be on Ashe and I hope that we are going to put a show on.”
‘He Could Become An Excellent Player’ – Remember Roger Federer’s Grand Slam Debut 21 Years Later
More than two decades ago on this day was the start of where it all began for the former world No.1. But what did he and his opponent think about his first match played at a major?
On this day 21 years ago the most decorated grand slam champion in the history of men’s tennis began his major career.
Roger Federer embarked upon the 1999 French Open as the youngest player in the field and yet to break into the world’s top 100. Aged 17, the Swiss player was yet to play in the final of an ATP Tournament and only managed to enter the Roland Garros main draw thanks to a wild card. His opponent was third seed Pat Rafter who at the time was at the peak of his career. The Australian had won back-to-back US Open titles leading up to the tournament.
Undoubtedly the odds were piled heavily against a young and inexperienced Federer, but he still managed to make his mark. Surprisingly taking the first set before Rafter fought back to eventually win 5-7, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2.
“The young man from Switzerland could be one of the people who will shape the next ten years,” the French sports newspaper L’Equipe wrote at the time.
Rafter echoed a similar view to L’Equipe during his post-match media engagements. He went on to become one of the few players to have a perfect winning record against Federer of 3-0. Also defeating him twice during the 2001 season.
“The boy impressed me very much,” he said. “If he works hard and has a good attitude, he could become an excellent player.”
Rafter’s prediction came true but even he at the time didn’t expect the 17-year-old to go on and become one of the greatest. Now Federer holds the records for most grand slam titles (20), most weeks as world No.1 (310) and has won more ATP Awards than anybody else (37). Approaching the age of 39, he remains a prominent fixture in the world’s top 10 18 years on from his debut.
Federer has spoken about his first taste of a grand slam a few times in the past. One of his most notable observations was during a conversation he had with Rafter at the 2011 Wimbledon Championships. When speaking about losing his one set lead, the Swiss maestro said it was partly to do with his mental weakness and showing too much respect to the top guns at the time.
”I was up a set and I was just 17 years old and I wasn’t expected to win,” Federer recounted. ”I think I got broken in the second set and I was like ‘Oh, God, what am I doing?’
”Next thing you know I’m losing 6-3, 6-0, 6-2. It was very mental. I had a lot of respect for the older generation who were already accomplished. Obviously stars like Pat were, for me, people I really looked up to, even though I knew I could beat them. Mentally I was not so solid.”
Rafter has also admitted that his 1999 victory was partly down to the mental weakness of his rival during a 2018 interview with Blick newspaper. However, he blames losing the first set on never playing Federer before.
“I met Roger for the first time at the French Open in 1999. It was his grand slam debut. Since I did not know his game at the time, it took me some time to adjust to him. That’s why I lost the first set,” he said.
“Roger’s biggest handicap was his mental maturity, he was only 17 years old. That was one of the reasons why I came back and win in four sets.”
Whilst the French Open was where it all began for Federer, his record in the major is the worst out of the four grand slams. It is the only one he has failed to win multiple times, claiming his sole title back in 2009. Overall, he has played in the main draw 18 times with a win-loss of 70-17.
How old was the current top 10 when Federer made his grand slam debut?
- Novak Djokovic – 12
- Rafael Nadal – 12
- Dominic Thiem – 5
- Roger Federer – 17
- Daniil Medvedev – 3
- Stefanos Tsitsipas – 9 months
- Alexander Zverev – 2
- Matteo Berrettini – 3
- Gael Monfils – 12
- David Goffin – 8
(numbers in years unless otherwise stated)
‘Global Announcement’ Regarding Revised 2020 Calendar In The Works, Says French Open Chief
Guy Forget has issued an update regarding the current status of the clay-court major.
The governing bodies of tennis are hoping to announce their plans for the remainder of the 2020 season in unison, according to the tournament director of the French Open.
Guy Forget has told French radio station Europe 1 that he is working with the ITF, ATP and WTA on a ‘global announcement’ regarding what the rest of the tennis season would look like when it resumes. All professional events have been either cancelled or suspended since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are hopes that the sport could resume in August, however, there is still uncertainty around the US Open with a final decision set to be made in June.
The uncertainty surrounding Flushing Meadows is also problematic for the French Open, which is set to take just two weeks after the event concludes. Forget has stated that he is working with the USTA to ensure that the two major events do not collide. The French Open had originally planned to start on May 24th before being delayed due to the pandemic.
“The official announcement has not been made yet. It (the French Open) will probably be between the end of September and the beginning of October,” Forget told Europe 1.
“We’ve been working closely with the ATP, the WTA and the ITF to make a global announcement on what the circuit will be like until the end of the year.
“There are so many question marks. The city of New York is more affected by the coronavirus than France. They also have a lot of organisation problems, they will make an announcement mid-June to say how it’s going to be like for the US Open.”
Whilst the USTA is contemplating taking place behind closed doors, Forget is confident that his event will be able to welcome fans in some capacity. At present, France has banned all events that involve 5000 or more people. More than 500,000 tickets were sold for the tournament last year.
“We’ll see how the situation is in a couple of months. We will adapt to what the government will say. We have to be ambitious and optimistic,” he said.
The French Open is scheduled to be held from September 20th until October 4th. Rafael Nadal and Ash Barty are the defending champions in the men’s and women’s draws.
Chances Of Fan-Less US Open Rising Amid Warning From Former Champion Marin Cilic
The former world No.3 believes such a move would devalue the tournament, but it is the best option the USTA has?
The last player outside of the Big Four to win the US Open title believes the motion to play the event behind closed doors will feel like playing practice matches instead of a grand slam.
2014 champion Marin Cilic has voiced his concerns as the United States Tennis Association (USTA) continues to ponder what to do with the major event. All professional tennis tournaments have been suspended since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic with officials hoping to restart the Tour in August. However, there are concerns about the chances of the US Open taking place as originally planned due to New York being one of the most affected states in America by Coronavirus. More than 20,000 people have died in New York from the virus.
One option under consideration is hosting the event without any fans due to fears that the venue could become a COVID-19 hotspot with many people gathering in one place. Last year a record 737,872 fans visited the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center over two weeks. Such a move would be a huge financial loss for the organisers, but the event would still be able to go ahead. However, Cilic isn’t convinced that it would be the right move.
“I just feel that it’s going to more or less feel like practice matches,” he said during an interview with Reuters.
“It’s always going to be … in the years to come, ‘oh, you know that guy won a U.S. Open in 2020 without fans’. I don’t think it’s going to have that weight…
“It wouldn’t be the best scenario.”
Whilst it may not be the best scenario in the eyes of Cilic, it does appear that the USTA will be heading in that direction. Earlier this week New York Governor Andrew Cuomo posted a message on Twitter in which he said he is willing to partner with sports teams who will play events without fans. A possible lifeline for the US Open.
“New York State is ready and willing to partner with major sports teams that are interested in playing games safely, without fans. If our professional sports teams can make it work (and be safe) on their end, we’re supportive,” he wrote.
Originally the CEO of the USTA, Mike Dose, said it was ‘highly unlikely’ that the tournament would be played behind closed doors. However, that view has since significantly changed with more now leaning in favour of that option.
Lew Sherr is the Chief Revenue Officer of the USTA. Speaking to The Sports Business Journal, he said he has been surprised by the reception he has received from sponsors over the idea of a no-fan US Open with many viewing it as an historic event.
“Two months ago, it just didn’t feel like you could stage the celebration or the spectacle that is the U.S. Open in a no-fan scenario and have it be what we think of as the U.S. Open,” Sherr said.
“As we’ve gone forward, I’ve come around to recognizing what an achievement it would be to play, and how much our fans are missing the game and would be excited to see the competition, and that you need to think about it differently. It’s a different event. It would be broadcast differently, it would be consumed differently, it’s not just playing the U.S. Open as you know it, with empty seats.”
A final decision on the US Open will be made next month.
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