NEW YORK • Garbine Muguruza was left to sift through the remains of another failed US Open campaign, after the third seed suffered a shock 7-5, 6-4 second-round upset by unheralded Latvian Anastasija Sevastova on Wednesday.
The French Open champion has never found the same success on the Flushing Meadows hard courts as she has on Parisian clay, where she claimed her first Grand Slam title in May.
In four visits to the US Open, the 22-year-old has yet to advance to the third round.
The Spaniard came into this year's Open with a chance to overtake Serena Williams at the top of the world rankings if she could win the tournament. But she was already claiming it would need "a miracle" to even reach the final after her first match.
At least she went down battling. Serving for a third-round berth at 5-1, the 48th-ranked Sevastova failed to convert two match points as Muguruza registered the break to keep her hopes alive.
The world No. 3 then held her serve to love, then broke the Latvian a second time to get the set back on serve.
With the crowd at the Arthur Ashe Stadium court buzzing, Sevastova calmed her nerves to break once more to seal the biggest win of her career.
"I was shaking a little bit at the end," the 26-year-old said. "It feels great, but it's still not like I won the tournament. It's only second round."
Sevastova committed 34 unforced errors but was outdone by an even sloppier Muguruza, with 38. The Latvian was also able to capitalise on seven of 12 break-point opportunities.
The victory could serve as a key stepping stone in her rehabilitation, as she retired in 2013 due to chronic injuries before launching a comeback last year.
"I think I had to work on (my mental side) when I took the time off," said Sevastova, whose ranking has soared from No. 885 in February last year to the top 50 this week.
"I think I manage it better now that I stay in the moment."
She added that the second stage of her career was also made easier by being able to travel with her boyfriend, Ronald Schmidt of Austria, who is also her coach.
She will face Ukraine's Kateryna Bondarenko in the third round.
REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN