Ashleigh Barty, Sloane Stephens reach Rogers Cup semifinals

Sloane Stephens booked her spot at the Rogers Cup semi-final with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Anastasija Sevastova.

MONTREAL — After a brilliant grass court season, Ashleigh Barty is rocking the hardcourts at the women’s Rogers Cup.

Barty, the 15th seed, posted a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands in a quarterfinal on Friday. The Rogers Cup is her first action since winning 12 matches in the short grasscourt season, which included a tournament title in Nottingham and reaching the third round at Wimbledon.

Then she went home to Australia for a little break before getting back to work.

"Wimbledon was successful but disappointing in the same breath," the 22-year-old said. "It was really nice for me to go home.

"I had just over two weeks of no tennis, actually, which is really nice. Then hit for about 10 days before I came over here. It was a nice to be at home just cruising with my family, seeing them after I was away for two and a half months."

In the semifinals, Barty will face the top seed and world No. 1 Simona Halep, the 2016 Rogers Cup winner who defeated sixth-seeded Caroline Garcia 7-5, 6-1 in one hour 28 minutes. Barty and Halep have never met.

"I never played against her so I don’t really know what to expect," said Halep. "But I know she’s very talented.

"She’s moving O.K. I just have to talk to my coach before the match, trying to stay stronger on my legs, and trying to be with the energy at the highest level as possible."

Third-seeded Sloane Stephens cruised past Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 6-2, 6-2 and next meets the winner between Elina Svitolina and Elise Mertens.

Stephens had no such success in doubles, where she and Eugenie Bouchard of Montreal fell 6-4, 6-2 to Latisha Chan and Ekaterina Makarova in a quarterfinal.

That Barty has climbed back into the WTA’s top 20 is impressive considering that she set tennis aside just as she was first making her mark to play in a women’s pro cricket league in 2015. She left the Brisebane Heat of the Women’s Big Bash League to resume her tennis career in February 2016.

Before that, she had been Wimbledon junior champion in 2011. In 2013, she reached the doubles final of three grand slam tournaments with partner Casey Dellacqua.

"I felt like it was a gradual progression for me to come back and play tennis," said the five-foot-five Barty. "I feel like this is where I belong.

"It was really challenging. The first year, I think it was 2016, I struggled with injuries, getting my body right, actually being able to go out and play matches. But I feel great. I feel probably as best as I ever have on and off the court."

Now she’s won six straight hardcourt matches, including a pair of Fed Cup victories.

"That was kind of the goal for me to keep that consistency, a good level of tennis to cement my spot in the top 20. I feel like I’ve done that pretty well this year," she said.

Barty and Dutch partner Demi Schuurs also advanced to the doubles semis with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Aoyama Shiko and Lidziya Marozava.

Bertens fell short of posting a third straight win over a seeded player after ousting Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova in the last two rounds.

Stephens’ baseline game proved too much for 28-year-old Seavastova, who lost on her serve in the opening game of both sets and was never able to catch up. Sevastova, ranked 19th, was a recent winner in Bucharest and a finalist in Mallorca. She played her sixth quarterfinal this year.

Sevastova was one of Stephens’ victims on her run to a first grand slam win at the U.S. Open last year.

The win put Stephens into the Rogers Cup semifinals for a second year in a row, so she doesn’t worry, as some players do, about peaking too soon.

"I think everyone is different. I mean, when you’re playing good matches in big tournaments like this, I don’t think it’s peaking too soon. It’s just getting confidence and playing good tennis," she said.

"Leading up to the U.S. Open, obviously last year it worked pretty well. I made semis back to back, then ended up winning the U.S. Open, so I don’t really think there’s such a thing."

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