Stephens Gaining More Notoriety
Sloane Stephens has always been a big fan of Serena Williams. In fact, Williams was her childhood hero.
The 19-year-old from south Florida seemed to be stunned, not quite able to comprehend how she managed to produce the upset of the Australian Open by defeating 15-time major winner Serena Williams in the quarterfinals Wednesday. It was the farthest Stephens has advanced in seven Grand Slam tournaments.
During her childhood, a poster of Williams graced Stephens' bedroom wall. Today, Stephens feels that they're peers.
Stephens, the 29th seed in the tournament, won 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. At 4-3 in the second, she quieted her nerves and began striking the ball harder and picking up the tempo.
That's when Williams injured her back trying to pull up short of the net as she ran down a drop shot. Williams released a loud scream and limped away. Stephens looked back over the net, seemingly concerned.
Williams began taking more time between points, limping and trying to remain in the shade at the back of the court.
Between games, Williams called for the trainer. She was granted a three-minute medical timeout and came back serving at a pace far below her usual speed.
Stephens' upset victory improved her celebrity status almost instantly.
Prior to the match, Stephens had about 17,000 followers on Twitter. A few hours after qualifying for her first Grand Slam semifinal, she had over 40,000. She even received a congratulatory tweet from American singer John Legend.
She retweeted the sentiments from Legend: "Just found out her dad is John Stephens from the Pats. (that's my real name) I had his football card when I was a kid. I was so proud, ha ha."
Stephens' father, a former New England Patriots player, died in 2009.
On the men's side of the tournament, Novak Djokovic defeated Andy Murray in four sets for his third consecutive Australian Open title and fourth overall.
It was also the second time in three years that Djokovic had beaten his longtime friend in the Australian Open final. So the celebration was muted: raised arms, a small victory shuffle, and a kiss for the trophy.
Nine other men had won consecutive Australian Open titles in the open era, but none had three straight years. One of them was Andre Agassi, who presented Djokovic with the championship trophy.