Serena out, Federer into semifinals
By John Pye, AP and ReutersMELBOURNE -- Serena Williams' dominating run at the majors is over. American teenager Sloane Stephens is headed to the semifinals of the Australian Open.
January 24, 2013, 12:03 am TWN
Williams hurt her back in the eighth game of the second set, slowing down her serve, restricting her movement and causing her obvious pain.
But the 19-year-old Stephens kept her composure, blocking out the injury drama on the opposite side of the net, and rallied for a 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory on Wednesday — by far the most significant in her seven Grand Slam campaigns.
It was Williams' first loss since Aug. 17 for the 15-time Grand Slam winner, ending a run of 20 consecutive wins. She hadn't lost a match at a Grand Slam tournament since the French Open, where her first-round exit sparked a resurgence in the second half of 2012 that included titles at Wimbledon, the London Olympics, the U.S. Open and the WTA Championship.
After winning her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, Stephens next plays defending champion Victoria Azarenka.
The No. 29-seeded Stephens had been given barely a chance of beating Williams, who lost only four matches in 2012 and was in contention to regain the No. 1 ranking at the age of 31. Williams' latest winning streak included a straight sets win over Stephens at the Brisbane International earlier this month.
And Stephens wasn't even sure that she could beat Williams, until she woke up Wednesday.
“When I got up, I was like, 'Look, Dude, like, you can do this.' Like, 'Go out and play and do your best,'” she said.
Surprisingly, though, it wasn't until after losing the first set and being broken in the first game of the second that she really convinced herself she could.
“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 OK.'
“From then on I got aggressive, started coming to the net more, and just got a lot more comfortable.”
She started hitting winners, cutting down on the errors, and pushing the injured Williams around the court.
Williams walked around the net to congratulate Stephens, who then clapped her hand on her racket and waved to the crowd, a look of disbelief on her face.
She then went to her tennis bag, pulled out her phone and started checking for any text messages from her mother.
“I was hoping she had texted me right away. I thought maybe she was texting me during the match,” Stephens said. “I'm sure my grandparents are like freaking out.”
Sloane Stephens, of the U.S., celebrates after defeating compatriot Serena Williams in their quarterfinal match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Wednesday, Jan. 23. (AP)