U.S. Open champ Stephens tops veteran Navarro to reach Rogers Cup quarters
Sloane Stephens says she isn't overly excited about the hard court tennis season even if it leads to the tournament that brought her biggest victory — the U.S. Open.
The 25-year-old's career took off last September when, not long after returning from a foot injury, she won her first grand slam title with a victory over fellow American Madison Keys in New York.
Hard court tennis resumed in earnest last week in Washington, D.C., where Stephens lost in the third round to Andrea Petkovic.
She'll go at least one round farther this week at the Rogers Cup after beating veteran Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 7-5 to reach the quarterfinals on Thursday.
But Stephens said the lead-up to the U.S. Open, which begins Aug. 27, is not different this time.
"I think now, just kind of taking it all in stride, trying to play my best, compete, get a lot of matches under my belt," she said. "I have a few goals that I still want to reach.
"I think, U.S. Open or not, if I do really great, if I do really bad, it really doesn't matter."
Flashes of superior talent
Stephens showed flashes of superior talent in recent years, but seemed to be locked in into the 20s in world rankings until a year ago. Now she sits third in the world, with a win on hard courts in Miami in March and an appearance in the French Open final, where she lost to top-ranked Simona Halep.
She will be vying for a second trip to the Rogers Cup semifinals in a row.
Stephens looked to be cruising to victory with a 5-1 lead in the second set over Suarez, but the Spaniard, a former top-10 player, battled back to tie it 5-5. But Stephens broke serve for 6-5 and then scored four straight points to put the match away, punctuating her win with and sharp cross-court forehand on match point.
"I think she just raised her game a little bit," she said. "She started playing better.
"She called her coach out at 5-2. She started playing a little bit different. I don't think it was a matter of, like, 'holy [expletive], it's going to [expletive].' It's just like a couple of good games that she played. Maybe the old me would have kind of freaked out. I was kind of like, 'OK, it's fine, she's allowed to play well.' Just kind of regroup. I did that. I was happy with that."
Faces Sevastova next
Stephens will next face Anastaija Sevastova who ousted 10th-seeded Julian Goerges. Sevastova, a Latvian ranked 19th in the world, was a winner last month at a tournament in Bucharest.
Ashleigh Barty, the 15th seed from Australia, also advanced when she defeated French veteran Alize Cornet 7-6 (3), 6-4.
Rain-delayed second round matches were completed after rain stopped play on Wednesday evening.
Top-seeded Halep needed three hours eight minutes to down Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-6 (9), 4-6, 7-5. Halep is 8-0 in her career against the Russian and dropped a set for only the third time.
Johanna Konta completed her second round with a 6-3, 6-1 win over former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, while Venus Williams beat Sorana Cirstea 7-6 (4), 6-4.
Konta is to play defending champion Elina Svitolina in the third round later Thursday, while Halep faces Williams.