Sevastova hands Serena Williams first singles Fed Cup loss as Latvia levels tie
World No.41 Anastasija Sevastova pulled off a major upset at the Fed Cup qualifiers, holding her nerves to defeat Serena Williams in a late-night thriller.
After racing to a comfortable 2-0 lead, the United states was all but assured of qualification as Sofia Kenin took on Latvian Jelena Ostapenko. However, the reigning Australian Open champion fell to the former Roland Garros titlist.
Despite the setback, many believed 23-time Grand Slam champion would overcome Sevastova in the fourth rubber. The two had previously clashed in the semifinals at the 2018 US Open, with Williams dropping only three games to her opponent.
Sevastova appeared intimidated in the first set, hitting only 7 winners to Williams 14. However, she regained her confidence as the set progressed, minimizing her unforced errors. The same could not be said for Williams, who committed 30 unforced errors and had to break Sevastova back when the Latvian twice served for the set.
To the shock of the home crowd, Sevastova claimed the first set in a tense tiebreak 7-6(5). A few errant shots proved costly for Williams, but the American was more consistent in the second set. She converted on four of her seven break point opportunities, relying on her fearsome forehand to get the job done. Taking the second set 6-3 and with the crowd firmly behind her, momentum was on her side.
Both women seemed determined to outdo the other in the final set, with neither facing a break point. Another tiebreak ensued, with Sevastova relying on her defense to keep her in the game. A Williams forehand flew just north of the baseline, giving the Latvian a mini-break at 4-3. She held on to win the match 7-6(5) 3-6 7-6(4) in two hours and 25 minutes.
In the wake of this stunning upset, Latvia has leveled the tie at 2-2 and both nations will have to rely on their doubles teams to qualify for the Fed Cup in April. Regardless of the outcome, Anastasija Sevastova can claim the honor of breaking Serena Williams unbeaten streak in Fed Cup singles matches.