Although she battled hard to get through two rounds in last year’s US Open, Cori Gauff’s aspirations for an even better run this summer have been curtailed on the opening day by an experienced opponent in Anastasija Sevastova – who overcame second set nerves to hold firm en route to a gritty three-set victory.
#31 seed Sevastova defeats Gauff 6-3, 5-7, 6-4
Gauff’s shot defence, great range of movement and a fearless attitude to charge forwards toward the net were all evident from the first ball.
However, serving has proven her Achilles heel and was again quickly at the forefront of an error-strewn performance here. She had five double faults in the first set, losing it 6-3 against Sevastova – who was previously winless in 2020 (0-7) entering this clash.
The Latvian’s insistence on drop shots had mixed success: either prompting a sprinting Gauff to the net or providing the exclamation point on a well-executed rally.
16 unforced errors after 28 minutes, it was apparent Gauff needed to be more patient and methodical with her shot placement, making it far too easy for Sevastova.
A remarkable stat was revealed mid-match: Sevastova’s never lost at the US Open when she’s taken the first set (13 matches).
However, her teenage opponent was never going to lose without a fight.
In the second set, she won an early break point and a passing crosscourt winner helped her to a 2-0 lead.
Sevastova unleashed a brilliant backhand down-the-line winner which helped her halve the deficit. Gauff did well to save two break points but a timely winner at the net presented a third.
Frustratingly for her, another double fault gifted Anastasija a route back into a back-and-forth set that could have swung either way in truth.
An impressive lunging volley helped Sevastova as she earned three successive games, before she started feeling the pressure herself.
Sevastova’s emotions spill over, presenting redemption for Gauff
Double faults were creeping into her game with increasing frequency, while unforced errors allowed Gauff a way back into a match that was rapidly slipping away from reach.
4-2 down, turned into 5-4 up and she served to level the scores after 75 minutes.
Sevastova responded defiantly, as she did throughout – forcing Cori to move across court from left-to-right, winning most of the longer rallies and was on the verge of victory.
Yet her unforced errors increased too (23), as she cut a distraught look on her face as the 30-year-old received a warning for launching a ball into the empty seats in frustration.
Gauff, equally annoyed herself ten minutes earlier, importantly held her nerve to level the scores again with a 7-5 second set score. She had even more double faults (7) in set two, yet Sevastova had seven more unforced errors by contrast.
A much improved deciding set by both
So, it was always going to be interesting to see who started faster and how the deciding set would transpire. Sevastova saved two break points and was aggressive enough at the net to settle her nerves slightly, taking a 1-0 lead.
Gauff held serve after remaining composed at the net, but Sevastova’s serving was strong as she did the same. 1-1 soon turned into 4-4 as both were serving at a more accurate clip and utilising clever shots on serve to finish relatively easy points.
Sevastova, who received treatment at the change of ends with an eye complaint, defiantly tried to edge back ahead and stay there. A service ace helped her to a 5-4 lead and after successive unforced errors, Gauff had two match points to save.
She saved the first with a powerful first serve, Sevastova fired into the net on the second opportunity and misfired wildly at deuce. A forehand crosscourt winner saw deuce return again, but Gauff missed an easy volley to produce a third match point.
After unleashing a forehand down-the-line winner, Sevastova ultimately prevailed at the fourth time of asking – watching Cori fire ferociously into the net.
On the same side of the draw as Osaka, she’s now set to play Ukrainian teenager Marta Kostyuk on Wednesday in R2, who beat Daria Kasatkina in straight sets.