August 2, 2015

Serena Williams Slayed by Rising Star Stephens in Australian Open Quarterfinals


By Jaclyn Stacey


(January 23, 2013) MELBOURNE PARK, Australia – 19-year-old Sloane Stephens shocked the tennis world on Wednesday at the Australian Open, defeating 15-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 and progressing into her first career Grand Slam semifinal.


“Today I just really didn’t have anything to lose, “ Stephens said. “I mean, you’re playing for the semis of a Grand Slam. You just got to go out and do it really.”


Williams’ 18 years of experience as a pro shone through in the opening set and a half as she got herself ahead of the younger American claiming the first set 6-3 and leading a break in the beginning of the second set.


Being down 0-2 in the second set Stephens picked up her game and really took it to her mentor.


“I think I was convinced that I was able to do it when I lost serve in the first game in the second set and I went down 2-0.  And I was like, Hmm, this is not the way you want it to happen. But you just fight and just get every ball back, run every ball down, and just get a lot of balls in play, I think you’ll be okay.”


“From then on I got aggressive, started coming to the net more, and just got a lot more comfortable. I just kind of just kind of played my game from there, I think.”


Stephens got a break on Williams and attempted to serve out the set leading 5-3. At the same time her opponent down the other end was moving around the court in pain from a back spasm.


Williams explained the moment she felt the injury take place.


“Well, I was running to the net for a dropshot. As I went to hit it, it was on the backhand. I even screamed on the court. I was like, Ahh. I totally locked up after that. It was just like — it was a little painful.”


The five-time Australian Open champion managed to ignore the pain and break Stephens back by taking advantage of the nerves of the young American who double-faulted to go break-point down during the game. Williams held for 5-all but was again broken by Stephens in the next game as she struggled to serve without pain. Stephens then capitalized on her second opportunity to serve out the set 7-5 and took the match into a decider.


Williams left the court for medical treatment on her back at the break and came back serving balls at just 89mph, a whopping 39.7mph slower than her fastest recorded speed at the tournament of 128.7mph.


“Yeah, I mean, she was serving at lower speeds, but her serve, she hits spots. No matter how slow it’s going, it’s right on the line. It’s still a really good serve even though it’s much slower,” Stephens said of the slowed down balls coming her way.


The women held serve to start a very tense third set, both women hitting with impressive power and putting their all into the fight.


At the first change of ends a frustrated Williams smashed her racquet into the ground but remained quiet. The last two weeks had been tough on her body as she battled through an ankle injury in her first round match and then the back injury.


Williams got a break in the seventh game of the final set to take a 4-3 lead but was immediately broken back by Stephens to level at 4-4. From there she held and broke Williams again to claim her space in the semifinals.


It was a momentous win for the young American who defeated her childhood hero on tennis’ biggest stage at a Grand Slam. When asked about the poster of Williams she kept on her wall as a child she said through tears, “This is so crazy but – oh my goodness – I think I want a poster of myself now.”


Stephens plays world number one and defending champion Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals and says she will give it her all.


“Gonna be a totally different match. I’m just going to go out and play my best, obviously. Do what I do really well and just play my game. Just hopefully, you know, play well again.”


Stephens Sets Up Master and Apprentice Quarterfinal Clash With Williams


By Jaclyn Stacey

(January 21, 2013) MELBOURNE PARK, Australia – Sloane Stephens continued her dream run at the Australian Open, defeating young Serbian Bojana Jovanovski in a tough three set match 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 on Monday to set up a quarterfinal clash with Serena Williams on Wednesday.


Stephens is a part of the next generation of American tennis players and will compete in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal against her idol Williams. The two played recently in Brisbane, Williams winning that match in straight sets 6-4, 6-3.


Stephens served superbly with 80% of first serves in during the match. She also managed 90% of returns into play and created 11 break point opportunities in the match, converting 7 of them.


The young American required only 25 minutes to win the first set, allowing Jovanovski just one game before claiming the set 6-1.


The Serbian came back firing in the second set however, picking up her game considerably and playing more aggressively to level the match at one set a piece.


The third set was very evenly matched as the two struggled to hold serve early on. With the set level at 5-5 Stephens put her foot down and broke Jovanovski to love with a forehand winner. From there she closed out the match on serve 6-1 3-6 7-5 to progress to the quarterfinals.


“No, I obviously didn’t feel like I had to go for more because I was hitting the ball in the service line every time.  At one point I was just like, Okay, I didn’t want to stay out there all day, you got to hit the ball or go home.”


“First set I came out, I was playing good, not missing much.  She was making a few errors.”


“Then she brought it full force second, third set. I just had to find a way. I think mentally it was pretty tough. I was thinking, Oh, my God, this is for the quarters of a Grand Slam and I’m completely just like not here right now. I was like, I need to refocus. I was playing my own self, I guess you could say. But I managed to get through, so that was good.”


Stephens will play her mentor Serena Williams in the quarterfinal after the top American crushed her Russian opponent Maria Kirilenko 6-2, 6-0 in 57 minutes.


Stephens said that having already played Williams in the past will take away the intimidation factor coming into her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.


“Yeah, I mean, it will be tough obviously. Its quarters of a Grand Slam. There won’t be that like first time, Oh, my God, I’m playing Serena. That’s kind of out of the window now. So that’s good. And then it will feel more of like a regular match instead of all the other like things to think about.”


“She’s obviously one of the greatest players to ever play the game.  Without all that, it’s still a tennis match.  You have to go out and play your game, no matter what.  Without the titles, with the titles, it’s still a tennis match.  The court’s the same size.  You’re still playing a regular person across the net.  You’ve just got to go out and play.”


Jaclyn Stacey is a Melbourne based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open tournament as media for Tennis Panorama News.  Follow her Australian Open updates on @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal twitter @JackattackAU.


Stephens Beats Robson in Battle of Teenagers at Australian Open


Sloane Stephens Tennis Panorama

(January 19, 2013) Before a very pro-Robson crowd, American Sloane Stephens won the battle of the only two teenagers left in the women’s draw on Saturday at the Australian Open. The 19-year 29th seed defeated Great Britain’s Laura Robson 18, 7-5, 6-3 in one hour and 49 minutes.


Stephens ran out to a 4-0 first set lead knocking winners past Robson at will. Robson won the next four games to make it eve. In the fifth game, Robson was treated for a shoulder issue.


“I felt something in my shoulder yesterday, but we still don’t know what it is because I haven’t had time to see the doctor or anything yet,” Robson said.


The medical time out seemed to deflate Stephens’ momentum as her attacking game turned into a passive retrieving one. Robson turned into the aggressor.


Stephens had two set points on Robson’s serve at 5-4 but could not covert. The American did convert at 6-5 when Robson fired a backhand wide.


Serving for the match at 7-5, 5-3, Stephens had to save two break points before sealing the victory.


“It was super intense” Stephens said describing the match.  “I think there wasn’t a point where there wasn’t something like, Oh, my goodness, this is intense.  I was up like 4‑0, 4‑All.  We had some pretty intense games.  That’s what it’s about, getting out there and getting after it.”


“Laura and I are good friends.  She’s obviously a good player.  We’re going to have a rivalry, all that good stuff.”


“ I’m sure I’ll play Sloane a lot in the future.  I’m sure after today she’s going to be top 20, Robson said.  “So good for her.”


Stephens, who also beat Robson in Hobart last week, will play either 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm or Bojana Jovanovski for a place in the quarterfinals..


“Date, that’s funny, because they were saying she could be my mom, which is like kind of weird, “ Stephens said of potentially playing Date-Krumm.  “It would be like playing one of my mom’s friends, which is kind of, hmm, not so fun.


“But, yeah, I have seen her a couple of times, Jovanovski.  Sort of kind of the same age as me.  She’s a little bit older.”

“Just another match.  Just got to go out and play my game.”