MADRID, Spain - For the second time in as many weeks, Anastasija Sevastova recorded a top 10 victory on the terre battue, as the Latvian upset No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova, 6-3, 6-3 in the second round of the Mutua Madrid Open.
Sevastova won seven straight games from 2-3 down in the first set to put herself in a commanding position en route to another top 10 win this season - having upset Johanna Konta in her last event at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart.
"I feel pretty comfortable on clay, and I like the conditions here - I think they suit my game," said Sevastova after the match.
The upset puts an end to Pliskova's hopes of reaching World No.1 this week - the top spot is now guaranteed to pass from Serena Williams to Angelique Kerber.
Sevastova, who retired in 2013 after struggling with injuries and illness, returned at the start of 2015 with neither a protected ranking nor any offers of WTA Tour wildcards. Having started at the very bottom, in $10,000 ITF qualifying, it took her just a year to make it back to the Australian Open main draw in 2016.
Today, she sits at a career high of World No.22, and her win over Pliskova marks her third top 10 win of her "second" career, and her third overall. Prior to Konta in Stuttgart, she had previously beaten Jelena Jankovic in Monterrey and Samantha Stosur in Beijing in 2010 and Garbiñe Muguruza at the US Open in 2016.
The 27-year-old Latvian tangled her Czech opponent up with an array of finely executed dropshots, ever-sharper angles - particularly on her forehand side - and unpredictable patterns of play.
Though both players ended the match with positive margins in their counts of winners versus unforced errors, it was the Latvian who proved the more effective on the biggest points. The World No.22 struck 14 winners to a tidy 10 unforced errors, won nearly 70 per cent of the points played on her own serve, and broke the Pliskova delivery three times.
Though the World No.3 tallied 24 winners to 22 unforced errors in the match, she was unable to break through against Sevastova when it mattered the most, as the Latvian saved all six break points she faced in the one hour, 18-minute encounter.
After five games in the opening set went by with neither player facing much pressure on serve, Sevastova passed her first test by saving a pair of break points to knot the action at 3-3.
After saving those two early break points, Sevastova hit a purple patch in which she reeled off seven consecutive games to lead 3-0 in the second set, including a wonderful forehand pass to take the first set.
For her part, Pliskova's 51 per cent of first serves landed was far below her usual standards, and careless errors put paid to a handful of break point opportunities to regain a foothold in the match. But more often than not, she was left chasing shots off the Sevastova forehand, played with effortless technique and heavy disguise.