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Aug 9, 2018; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Sloane Stephens of the United States hits a shot against Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain (not pictured) during the Rogers Cup tennis tournament at Stade IGA. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Jean-Yves Ahern/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

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.

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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 quarter-finals 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.”

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 semi-finals 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.

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“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.”

Later Thursday, she teamed up with Genie Bouchard of Westmount, Que., to reach the doubles quarter-finals with a 6-0, 6-4 doubles win over Kirsten Flipkens and Daria Gavrilova. Neither is especially a doubles player, but Sloane and Bouchard made the most of it and their match on a sidecourt drew nearly as much attention as the singles play.

“We get along well,” said Bouchard, who lost in the first round of singles. “She’s really silly – a very light-hearted, fun person.

“We’ve known each other, like, half our lives at this point. We’re just very comfortable with each other. She hits some big forehands and I love that. Makes my life easier.”

They will next play second seeds Latisha Chan of Taiwan and Ekaterina Makarova of Russia.

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In the singles quarter-finals, Stephens will face Anastaija Sevastova, who ousted 10th-seeded Julian Goerges. Sevastova, a Latvian ranked 19th in the world, won last month in Bucharest.

Two players in their second match of the day due to Wednesday’s rain delays, top-seeded Simona Halep had little trouble with 38-year-old Venus Wiliams in a 6-2, 6-2 victory.

Halep, the French Open champion who won in Montreal in 2016, will face sixth seeded Caroline Garcia of France, who ended the run of former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova with a 6-3, 6-2 win.

Ashleigh Barty, the 15th seed from Australia, also advanced to the singles quarter-finals when she defeated French veteran Alize Cornet 7-6 (3), 6-4. Kiki Bertens upset eighth seeded Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-2 and will face Barty.

Defending champion Elina Svitolina downed Johanna Konta, who was playing her second match of the day, by 6-3, 6-4. She next faces Elise Mertens, who beat Aryna Salabanka 2-6, 7-6 (7), 6-0 later Thursday.

Rain-delayed second round matches were completed after rain stopped play on Wednesday evening.

Sabalenka, a 20-year-old from Belarus, pulled off a major upset with a 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (4) victory over second seeded Caroline Wozniacki and will play Elise Mertens in the third round later Thursday.

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.

Konta completed her second round with a 6-3, 6-1 win over former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, while Williams beat Sorana Cirstea 7-6 (4), 6-4.

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