By Amy Tennery
NEWYORK (Reuters) – Five years ago Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova was retired from professional tennis, having bowed out of the sport after a string of persistent and frustrating injuries.
Back then it would have been difficult to imagine the scene on Tuesday when she upset defending U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens 6-2 6-3 to reach her first Grand Slam semi-final, marking the latest chapter in her remarkable career comeback.
“It was an amazing journey this three, four years,” Sevastova told reporters after the match, a repeat of last month’s Rogers Cup semi which Stephens won in straight sets.
When Sevastova returned to tennis in 2016, she stunned experts and players alike at Flushing Meadows when she beat 13th seed Johanna Konta of Britain to reach the quarter-finals.
She reached the U.S. Open last eight again in 2017 when she lost to Stephens and this year won the Bucharest Open.
The 19th-seeded Latvian said the rigours of the tournament at flushing Meadows have not given her a moment to consider the long odds she overcame to regain her competitive form.
“You think, ‘Oh, but in the end it’s amazing, yeah?’ You can’t believe, yeah. So after I stop at some point I will look at it and I will be proud of myself, for sure.”
Sevastova, ranked 18th in the world, said she did not have many goals when she returned to tennis.
“I was thinking, okay, maybe a couple of years, play top 100. Enjoy the game.” she said.
“But now, obviously when you win more, you have higher goals. And when you’re, like, winning a tournament, you think that’s normal. I can win it maybe next week again.”
The Latvian next faces either six-times U.S. Open champion Serena Williams or eighth seed Karolina Pliskova, who play later on Tuesday at the Arthur Ashe stadium, in the last four.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Ken ferris)