New York: Anastasija Sevastova ended Sloane Stephens’s US Open title defence last night, toppling the world number three 6-2, 6-3 to reach a first Grand Slam semi-final.
Later in the night, Juan Martin del Potro reached the US Open semi-finals for the third time, defeating John Isner 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 and ending American hopes of a first men’s champion at the event since 2003.
Argentine third seed Del Potro, the champion in 2009, goes on to face either world number one and defending champion Rafael Nadal or Austria’s Dominic Thiem for a place in the final.
Del Potro dropped his first set of the tournament against 11th seed Isner, who was playing in his maiden quarter-final at his home Slam.
Despite that, the 29-year-old was never broken in the 3 hour 31 minute match where Isner unleashed 26 aces but was undone by his 52 unforced errors compared to Del Potro’s 14.
Stephens refused to blame the punishing heat and humidity on Arthur Ashe Stadium, where her inability to convert any of seven break chances in the opening set paved the way for her defeat.
“When you don’t play big points well, the match can get away from you,” she said.
“I just really couldn’t get anything to connect. Even when I did have my break opportunities, I just wasn’t playing the points well at all. Mentally, physically, I just wasn’t connecting. It just was a really tough day. The heat doesn’t make it any more fun.”
Sevastova, who stepped away from the game for two years in 2013 after a variety of injuries, will face either 23-time major champion Serena Williams or Karolina Pliskova for a place in the final.
Sevastova relies on variety more than power, and she caught a slow-moving Stephens with a number of drop shots and drop-shot lob combinations.
After taking a 4-1 lead in the second set, Sevastova admitted that memories of last year’s quarter-final against Stephens flashed across her mind.
Stephens was ranked 83rd in the world when she upset Sevastova in three sets at the same stage last year, trailing by a break in the third set before winning it in a tiebreaker.
Indeed Stephens fought back to narrow the gap to 4-3, but Sevastova grabbed another break with a well-timed drop shot for a 5-3 lead and sealed the victory on her third match point when a weary Sephens put a backhand into the net.
“I lost my nerves a little bit,” Sevastova admitted. “I think she lost also her nerves a little bit, it’s normal. It’s for semi-finals of US Open.”