PRAGUE, Czech Republic – Anastasia Potapova scored the biggest win of her young career as she eliminated No.2 seed Anastasija Sevastova from the J&T Banka Open, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.
The 18-year-old had only one Top 50 victory prior to this encounter - a win over then-WTA World No.49 Tatjana Maria in St Petersburg last year - yet she emerged with a Top 15 scalp for the first time.
After a slow start to the match, the Russian’s aggressive approach proved to be telling against an opponent who completely lost her way.
Sevastova was rendered the highest-ranked player in the competition after Karolina Pliskova withdrew earlier in the day due to illness but after showcasing her consistency and experience in the opening set, she lost the form that saw her push Petra Kvitova close in the Stuttgart quarterfinals last week.
This was largely of Potapova’s making as she consistently out hit her more senior rival and grew increasingly reliable as the match progressed.
Both women were making their debut on the red clay of Prague and had never previously faced each other.
Sevastova quickly learned about Potapova’s power as spent the opening set rebuffing the aggressive approach of her opponent, who was brave but prone to missing the court with her searing groundstrokes.
This reliability from the senior player allowed her to fashion a break in the fourth game, which was followed by another in a marathon eighth, which saw five deuces before the set was ultimately sealed at the second attempt.
After a relatively comfortable journey to the opener, Sevastova lost her way in the second. Her first service plummeted to 36% in, her shot choice became erratic and her accuracy vanished.
Potapova, meanwhile, clicked into gear and made the most of the openings presented to her while she did not cede a single break point as she established a 5-3 advantage. From there, she ensured that she did not have to sit the test of serving the set out as she stole her opponent’s delivery at the third time of asking.
She retained the momentum in the decider, showcasing her rising confidence with a stunning drop shot in the opening game. Ten minutes later, she had taken a firm grip of proceedings by breaking after a lengthy game sprinkled with thumping winners and brimming with endeavor.
Although a missed forehand invited Sevastova to break back, the teenager’s fearless mentality allowed her to immediately respond to build a 3-1 advantage.
Some signs of nerves were evident as she sought to close out the win in her first Tour-level clay court match of 2019, but she did so admirably by breaking to love, setting up a second-round meeting with Kristyna Pliskova or compatriot Natalia Vikhlyantseva.