No looking back in anger for American Stephens

Sat Jan 18, 2014 1:36am EST
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(Reuters) - Sloane Stephens was keen to swat away any references to a controversial clash against Victoria Azarenka at last year's Australian Open as the American advanced to a possible fourth-round clash against the two-times champion on Monday.

"I don't even remember half the stuff that happened," the 20-year-old said when questioned about a possible showdown with Azarenka after she had beaten Ukraine's Elina Svitolina 7-5 6-4 in the third round on Saturday. "It's okay.

"Last year has nothing to do with this year. It's a totally different year. A lot of things have happened.

"So, you know, I'm just looking forward to getting back on the court ... hopefully on the big court. It will be exciting."

Azarenka, who was playing Austria's Yvonne Meusburger later on Saturday, was accused of at best gamesmanship, at worst cheating, when she played Stephens in last year's semi-finals at Melbourne Park.

Leading by a set and 5-4, the defending champion had just missed five match points when she took a 10-minute timeout, leaving her teenage opponent to sit and wait.

When she returned, the Belarussian broke Stephens to clinch a 6-1 6-4 victory and a place in the final.

As jeers rang out around Rod Laver Arena, Azarenka compounded matters by making a bizarre courtside speech.

"I almost did the choke of the year," she said. "At 5-3 I had so many chances but I couldn't close it out. I felt a little bit overwhelmed that I was close to another final."   Continued...

Sloane Stephens of the U.S. hits a return to Elina Svitolina of Ukraine during their women's singles match at the Australian Open 2014 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 18, 2014. REUTERS/Bobby Yip