NEW YORK — Sloane Stephens won’t be defending her US Open title.
Battling a sinus infection and stiflingly humid conditions, the No. 3 seed was stunned in the quarterfinals Tuesday by No. 19 Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, 6-2, 6-3, in Arthur Ashe Stadium. A year ago, Stephens beat Sevastova in the quarterfinals en route to the title.
“I’ve been sick since Monday, bad sinus infection,” Stephens said. “But whatever, you gotta play…I didn’t play my best. I wish I could’ve played better. But it just wasn’t the day.”
Stephens won her maiden Grand Slam title at the Open in 2017, defeating fellow American Madison Keys in the final. She was set up for a potential semifinal meeting with six-time US Open champ Serena Williams, who will meet No. 8 Karolina Pliskova in another quarterfinal Tuesday night.
With the top seven seeds now out of the draw, Pliskova remains the highest remaining seed.
Sevastova, ranked No. 18 in the world, closed the match out on her third match point when Stephens hit a backhand into the net.
“Just to be playing on this stage, looking at the whole stadium is full and people are cheering, that is the most amazing feeling,” said Sevastova, who is into her first Grand Slam semifinal and is the first Latvian woman to reach the US Open semis. “Thank you very much.”
On the same court where five-time champion Roger Federer battled extremely humid conditions and lost to journeyman John Millman of Australia early Tuesday morning, Stephens never appeared comfortable playing in the brutal heat.
She was broken twice in the first set and then left the court to depart the heat.
Later on, she broken twice in the first four games of the second set, and then crouched down on the court in apparent discomfort.
Stephens made 15 unforced errors on her forehand and only won one point on her second serve in the entire match. Sevastova was 5-of-8 on break chances while Stephens was just 2-of-9.
“I didn’t convert,” Stephens said. “I didn’t play the big points well. And you don’t win matches when you don’t take advantage of opportunities. “
The player on the shaded side of the court won 14 of the 17 games in the match, compared with the sunny side, according to an ESPN graphic.
“When the shade was here it was so hot here and amazing there [on the sunny side] so it’s different, yeah,” Sevastova said.
The 5-foot-7 Sevastova, 28, actually quit tennis in May of 2013, riddled with injuries and instead focused on her studies with the idea of getting a job in sports management. Now she has reached the quarterfinals or better three-straight years at the US Open.
She comes from the same country as Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis but joked that she’ll never be as big a star as he is.
“I don’t think so,’’ Sevastova told the New York Post in 2016. “I don’t know if we have A-list celebrities. We have a basketball player. He’s playing in the New York Knicks. He’s an A-list celebrity, but I don’t feel like it.’’
As for the Americans, Williams and Keys remain the lone hopes for a title and could potentially meet in the final.
"It's always nice to see a bunch of Americans doing well at the home slam," Keys said. "I'm just really happy to be a part of it. And to have back-to-back years is really special."