“I’m working on serving and volleying more.”
It’s 2010 now, so since when do young players ever say things like that? Sure, they often speak about being “aggressive”, and they’re forever stressing the role that fitness plays in their tennis, but serving and volleying? Hell. No. I wouldn’t even be surprised if some of these young players have never even heard of the phrase. But Anastasija Sevastova sure has, and it is her willingness to incorporate variety into her tennis and to be led by intellect rather than instinct, that separates her from many of her contemporaries.
Born in Liepaja, Latvia. Sevastova’s prospects were bleak from the very beginning. With no tennis federation to fund her dream, a scarce amount of tournaments to compete in, and largely unchallenging opposition, she was forced to skip the junior circuit, competing in a grand total of three junior events (winning two). But she somehow made it work. After turning pro in 2005, the next four years would see a steady rise up the rankings as she conquered the ITF Circuit, qualified for her first Grand Slams and slowly began to experience success on the WTA Tour. However, this year would prove the real breakthrough year, with achievements including a first title in Estoril, a Premier Mandatory quarterfinal, plus upsets over Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic and Samantha Stosur.
Small but stocky, Sevastova assumes the role of an aggressive baseliner on court. Both groundstrokes are strong, versatile and solid, backed with an above average serve and reliable return. Her resourcefulness and intelligence is what sets her apart from the standard mould of aggressive baseliners; from her tendency to slice, to her ability to effortlessly play dropshot-lob combinations mildly reminiscent of Martina Hingis, and her willingness to move confidently into the forecourt. Mentally, Sevastova is a mystery. Half of the time she is dialled in and completely focused on her match, and the other half she looks like she’d rather be doing anything other than playing tennis.
Talented as Nastija Sevastova is, her game is still so rough around the edges. Will she ever be a world-beating top player? Not sure about that. But she could carve out a lucrative career for herself depending on her progress over the next couple of years. I almost feel like her breakthrough in Estoril was slightly too early. She may be the same age as the current world number one, but her game is still developing and having skipped juniors, her competitive juices are yet to fully come alive. She still has a lot to learn before we see what she is really capable of, but that’s why the next few years will be unnervingly exciting for Nastija Sevastova.