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Little-known Sevastova back in the big time after retirement

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Sept 4, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia hits to Johanna Konta of Great Britain (not pictured) on day seven of the 2016 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Sept 4, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia hits to Johanna Konta of Great Britain (not pictured) on day seven of the 2016 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

By Simon Cambers

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Anastasija Sevastova was so unknown when she arrived at the U.S. Open that even the official website could not find a photo of her.

A week on and the 26-year-old Latvian is into the quarter-finals of a grand slam for the first time thanks to a 6-4 7-5 victory over 13th seed Johanna Konta of Britain.

The photo oversight was corrected by tournament organisers, but they can be slightly forgiven because until the start of last year, Sevastova was officially a former player. She is now ranked 48th.

“Now I have a photo,” said Sevastova, who next plays the two-time former runner-up, Caroline Wozniacki, a 6-3 6-4 winner over American eighth seed Madison Keys.

“I'm OK with (not having a photo at first). I had a WTA picture with short hair. I didn't like it actually, so it was OK without picture.”

Ranked a career-high 36 in 2011 -- a ranking she will pass after her work this week -- Sevastova quit in May, 2013, riddled with injuries and turned her attention to studies with a view to getting a job in sports management. Now, she is back in the limelight, the first Latvian woman to reach the quarter-finals of a grand slam since 1994.

“I still cannot believe it,” she said. “Mentally I'm spent, totally spent. But it's amazing.” Sevastova studied leisure management in English language, in Austria, and said the journey back to this point had been far from easy. “It was a bumpy road,” she said. “It was one-and-a-half years (off) when I started again.

“I didn't expect to be here at this point of my life after retiring.”

Sevastova, who also beat third seed Garbine Muguruza in the second round in New York, overcame nerves and a late fightback from Konta to win, despite missing a match point at both 5-3 and 5-4 in the second set. With a quarter-final to look forward to, Sevastova said she was “playing better in my second career”.

“I'm handling pressure sometimes better than before,” she said. “Playing these match points, it's tough. It's always tough to finish the match, but I think I'm handling it better now.”

Whatever she does in the rest of the tournament though, Sevastova, who lives in Vienna, does not expect to be a celebrity back in Latvia.

“We have a basketball player,” she said. “He's playing in Europe next. He's an A-list celebrity, but I don't feel like it.”

(Editing by Andrew Both)


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