WHAT HAPPENED: Underestimate Anastasija Sevastova on the US Open hard courts at your own peril. The Latvian dismantled No. 7 seed Elina Svitolina, 6-3, 1-6, 6-0, to advance to the quarterfinals for the third straight year.
This 81-minute match out on Grandstand had everything: cat-and-mouse points, dizzying angles and winners, long rallies, drop shots — lots and lots of drop shots. Both players played well at different moments throughout, but in the end, Svitolina just didn’t have answers for the Latvian's variety. Sevastova pulled her out wide, forced her to come into the net (again, there were lots and lots of drop shots), and managed to get balls back that would be winners against many other players. Svitolina was broken in the first game and struggled to win points on Sevastova’s serve for the remainder of the first set. She didn’t have one break point opportunity, and produced just five winners against 12 unforced errors. Sevastova, by contrast, finished the set with 14 winners to eight unforced errors.
Then, in the second, without warning, Sevastova started to miss. She struggled to find her range and began to play the ball up the middle more, and Svitolina, one of the most consistent players on tour, pounced. Sevastova could only hold once the entire set and tripled her unforced error count for the match. Svitolina, perhaps inspired by her opponent, played a Sevastova-esque point at 5-1, 30-all, to earn set point, drawing in the world No. 18 with a short ball to force an error. Svitolina went on to win the next point to take the match to a decider.
The Latvian immediately got back to basics in the third, once again forcing Svitolina to make shots from uncomfortable positions. The game plan, which worked so well at the beginning of the match, worked even more effectively at the end. Svitolina could only win six more points, and lost the final set 6-0.
WHAT IT MEANS: Sevastova resides in Vienna, but at this point Flushing Meadows must feel like home. She has now reached the quarterfinals of the US Open for the third straight year, her best performance at a Grand Slam by a longshot.
Photos: Anastasija Sevastova defeats Elina Svitolina
"I don't know how," Sevastova said after the match. "There's a pattern maybe, because some tournaments I always play good. Like Mallorca, I played the finals three years. Maybe I believe that I can play good here year-to-year...I think the first year when I played [and won] the night match against Garbiñe Muguruza, it gave me some confidence."
Could she go one better this time? She will face defending champion Sloane Stephens in a rematch of their quarterfinal last year before the American went on to win the tournament,
MATCH POINT: Points won on second serve was a big factor: Sevastova won 60 percent of hers, while Svitolina only won 36 percent.