MELBOURNE, Australia - For the first time in eight years, Anastasija Sevastova is back in the second week of the Australian Open, after she dispatched No.23 seed Wang Qiang in the third round in straight sets on Friday, 6-3, 6-3.
Needing just 76 minutes to dispatch the Chinese No.1, Sevastova never trailed to book a place in the round of 16 Down Under for the second time in her career, and first time since 2011.
A tidy match from the Lativan No.1 saw her hit 17 winners to 17 unforced errors, as she won 83 percent of the points played behind her serve and broke serve four times.
"I think I started well. We both started well, but I managed to start better, I think, and in the first games, I broke her," Sevastova assessed after the match.
"The conditions were tough with the wind on one side, and the sun. I just kept fighting and didn't let her play her game."
Sevastova broke in the first game of the match and never was threatened on serve in the opener, as she dropped just seven points in four games total and never faced a break point.
In the second set, the action went with serve for the first five games before the Latvian No.1 earned the first break of serve, though Wang hit back for her first break of the match in the ensuing game.
The Latvian held off the comeback attempt from the World No.21, however, by steeling herself to win the last two games of the encounter and the last six points of the match.
Despite a stellar record at the US Open, where she reached the semifinals last summer and the quarterfinals in each of the two years before that, the Latvian had won back-to-back matches just once in each of her last three trips to the other hard-court major.
"I think it's tougher to play here. The court is faster, then sometimes it's slower...and also the weather makes it hard to adjust," she said. "You have to adjust every match. It can be so fast, so quick like today, or it can be slow when you play in the night."
Up next for Sevastova is an intriguing clash against US Open champion and No.4 seed Naomi Osaka.
Not only was the Japanese No.1 given all she could handle by a similar player to the Latvian in Hsieh Su-wei in her own third round match on Thursday, but the pair have already had a three-set match this year after facing off at the Brisbane International which was won by Osaka, 3-6, 6-0, 6-4.
"She has power but she moves well. She can also play defense. You have to mix it up against her. You have to get through your service games, but it's not like she's only hitting the ball full power. She can also be solid. She's powerful, but not making mistakes from nowhere," Sevastova assessed.
"She's a great player. She won a Grand Slam. It was tough in China [in Beijing last fall], and it was tough in Brisbane. I was a bit unlucky in Brisbane.
"I just got broken once in the third set, but the second set, you can forget. I think the first set was one of the best sets we played. I think she played amazing and I played amazing, so it's going to be awesome to play her again."