Serena faces next generation, Murray takes on Chardy
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Serena Williams comes face to face with the next generation of U.S. tennis when she takes on 19-year-old Sloane Stephens in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Wednesday.
Stephens secured her maiden appearance in a grand slam quarter-final with a composed three-set win over Serbia's Bojana Jovanovski and further impressed with her wise-cracking performance in an on-court interview after the match.
Joking about her nervous relatives and the A$250,000 ($262,600) prize money, Stephens also told the crowd at Hisense Arena that Williams had told her to grunt "louder", a reference to the 15-times grand slam champion's sometimes ear-splitting shrieks during play.
Much has been made of Williams's reported role as mentor to the 29th seed but the off-the-cuff comment continued a bit of banter from the teenager at the world number three's expense, carrying on from their heated match at the Brisbane International earlier this month.
Eventual champion Williams won the match in two sets but Stephens took the fight to the 31-year-old and was irked by her fist-pumping exhortations after winning big points.
Stephens told her coach that Williams was being 'disrespectful' during a change of ends, but later played down the comment as a joke.
With a sixth title at Melbourne Park on the line, Williams has backed away from the mentor role, saying she felt no responsibility toward Stephens.
"It's hard to be a real mentor when you're still in competition," said Williams, who strolled into their clash with a 6-2 6-0 thrashing of 14th seed Maria Kirilenko. Continued...