(Reuters) - Sloane Stephens has denied she was celebrating the shock fourth round exit of world number one Serena Williams and said she felt the television footage was intrusive.
Stephens had been captured by television with a wide grin on her face when Williams was beaten by Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic on Sunday and then seemingly rising her arms in triumph and trying to ‘high-five’ one of her support team.
Local media had jumped on the footage and said the actions would probably further sour an already frosty relationship between the world number one and Stephens that developed after the youngster beat Williams in last year’s Australian Open quarter-finals.
The 20-year-old, however, was adamant she had not been celebrating Williams’ demise but was merely mimicking the actions of Ivanovic’s supporters in the players’ box.
“There was no raising of the arms,” the 13th seed said after she was beaten 6-3 6-2 by two-times champion Victoria Azarenka on Monday to end the American presence in the singles in both the men’s and women’s draw.
”At the end of the match, Ivanovic’s coaches pretty much gave each other head butts and kisses, and I thought that was the funniest thing ever.
”I have never seen a more excited head butt/kiss at the end of the match.
“Then of course in posts and everything and edit and of course (they said) I‘m cheering against Serena, which had nothing to do with it. We were just having some fun.”
Stephens added she felt the footage had been intrusive.
“After I‘m on the bike, and then I was like ‘were they recording that?',” she said.
”Yeah, it’s a little much. Then for them to put it on TV was a little extra.
”It is what it is. I don’t think it was that (big) a deal.
“Move on. Who cares?”
Writing by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O'Brien