No let up for Serena slayer Stephens

Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:28pm EST
 

By Greg Stutchbury

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - A day after earning the biggest win of her career, American teenager Sloane Stephens faces another massive challenge when she meets defending champion Victoria Azarenka in the Australian Open semi-finals on Thursday.

The 19-year-old stunned the tennis world on Wednesday when she beat 15-times grand slam champion Serena Williams 3-6 7-5 6-4 in the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park.

The victory was the biggest upset of this year's tournament, where the top seeds in both the men's and women's draws have found their progress relatively unimpeded.

"I'm in the semis of a grand slam," said the 29th-seeded Stephens after beating her idol. "I was like, 'Whoa. It wasn't as hard as I thought'. But it's pretty cool.

"To be in the semis of a grand slam is definitely a good accomplishment. It's nice to be in this position."

Azarenka, who dispatched Svetlana Kuznetsova earlier on Wednesday to reach the last four, had described Sloane as "a very, very talented girl" before the match with Williams.

"I think over the last couple years you see her development as a tennis player. Her game has come together," added the defending champion.

With Williams now out of the picture, Maria Sharapova will feel her chances of clinching a second Australian Open title have increased dramatically, but she must first overcome a more focused and disciplined Li Na, whose fortunes have been turned around after Argentine Carlos Rodriguez took over as her coach.   Continued...

 
Sloane Stephens of the U.S. shakes hands with compatriot Serena Williams after defeating her in their women's singles quarter-final match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 23, 2013. REUTERS/Toby Melville