NEW YORK, NY, USA - No.31 seed Anastasija Sevastova continued her love affair with New York City as she took down American teenager Coco Gauff in three hard-fought sets to reach the second round at the US Open.
Earlier in the season, Sevastova turned heads during Latvia’s Fed Cup tie against the United States, handing Serena Williams her first-ever singles loss in the competition. But outside of that statement upset, Sevastova was still searching for victories at WTA and Grand Slam events - coming into the US Open, Sevastova had gone winless at all seven of her previous tournaments.
But the hardcourts of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center have always been some of Sevastova’s happiest hunting grounds. Sevastova reached the quarterfinals or better at three of her last four appearances, including her career best Slam result with her run to the semifinals in 2018. Sevastova returned to her giant-slaying ways at Louis Armstrong Stadium with a confident win over the on-the-rise Gauff, firing five aces and 27 winners en route to her 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory.
“I wish I would play like this when I was 16 years old,” Sevastova said, praising her opponent in the virtual post-round press conference. “Great player. Nothing more to say. I think she maybe started a bit slower than me, but she was getting better as the match went on. That's so important I think in tennis.
“In the end I think third set she played her best tennis. She was serving better, moving better. It was tough, yeah. Fortunately I stayed calm in the third set and managed to win, to close it out.”
The Latvian’s tricky, varied game had Gauff on the ropes from the start, with Sevastova opening with a break of serve, 1-0. Gauff got that break back right away, but couldn’t keep Sevastova contained as she surged ahead once again, taking a 4-2 lead. Gauff’s normally steady serve was misfiring, helping Sevastova on her way to claiming the opening set, 6-3.
Gauff looked determined to put the first set behind her has she raced ahead to a 2-0 lead in the second. But her service woes reared their head again - Gauff ended the match with 12 double faults, all of them coming from the first two sets - and Sevastova was back in the hunt, 2-2.
The momentum shifted quickly as Sevastova broke to take a daunting 4-2 lead, already up a set and closing in on the finish line. But Gauff extended her stay in the match and kept her composure through the four breaks of serve that followed. The 16-year-old held serve to love at 7-5 to send them into a decider.
While the first two sets combined featured 11 breaks of serve and dramatic changes in momentum, the final set seemed like a battle of attrition as both players waited to see who would blink first. Gauff earned the first two break points of the set in the first game, but they went unclaimed as the next nine games in a row went to the server. Finally it was Sevastova who took her opportunities, needing four match points to put away Gauff and move into the second round after just over two hours.
“I think I had some mistakes. I was risking a lot,” Sevastova said of the tight third set. “But, yeah, she's moving so well, it's tough to finish the point. She sees the ball. She hits amazing backhand. Forehand for sure could be better. Still, it's uncomfortable to play her.
“I just had to stay solid and play better on my service games in the third set. That's what I did. I thought I will have a chance at some point.”
Up next, Sevastova will take on another youngster as she faces 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk in the second round. The Ukrainian defeated Daria Kasatkina in a steamrolling 6-1, 6-2 performance to advance.