MONTREAL, Canada - Reigning US Open champion Sloane Stephens will contest the semifinals at the Coupe Rogers for the second straight year after she dispatched Anastasija Sevastova in the last eight, 6-2, 6-2.
The American had a much easier time with the Latvian No.2 than she did in their last encounter on North American hard courts, where she was pushed to a final set tiebreak in the quarterfinals en route to her first Grand Slam title in Flushing Meadows last year.
Stephens struck 18 winners and served at a sparkling 75 percent for the match, and converted on five of her nine break point opportunities to move into the last four in 69 minutes.
"I've been playing well and it's a good start here to the US Open Series. I'm happy to be back in North America and playing on hard courts, and I'm hoping for some more good results," Stephens said on-court after the match.
Later, she added: "I thought I played well today. Good conditions. I mean, I don't know. Just thought I played well. She didn't play bad. Just sometimes days like that that are lopsided."
Stephens sprinted out to a 5-0 lead in the match, which included a stretch of 10 straight points. She was denied the bagel set, however, as Sevastova made a stand to secure her first break, and then authored a love hold to close the deficit to 5-2.
"Your opponent can easily raise their game, they can do something to throw you off. That's just how it is," Stephens said. "I think you just have to try to stay focused and continue to execute whatever game plan it is that you had that was obviously working if you're up 5-0."
From there, Stephens won the next three games to move ahead by a break to start the second set, an advantage she held for the duration despite facing break points in each of her first two service games of the set.
"[A good start is] not something I think about at all. I haven't tried to do that," Stephens added. "That's just how it's worked out. I just try to come out and have a lot of energy from the very beginning. It's just worked out that way."
A year ago, Stephens was upended in the semifinals in Toronto by Simona Halep, who went on to lose to Elina Svitolina in the championship match. This year, the American will get a shot at the defending champion in the final four, after the No.5 seed defeated Elise Mertens in the last quarterfinal of the day.
"Having not played them in four years, we're obviously both different players. Everyone is pretty close," Stephens said. "At this point when it gets to the semifinals of a tournament, everyone is good. Everyone's ranking is high. You just got to go out and compete."