Serena Williams was practically unbeatable for months, her reign over the WTA world was unbelievable, and if you had to pick one player to beat the 15-time Grand Slam champion in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open would the name Sloane Stephens have crossed your mind?
Stephens is the only teenager in the Top 50, across the net she had the most intimidating WTA opponent, and even though she was playing in a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the first time, the 25-ranked 19-year-old pulled off the biggest shock of the tournament with a 3-6 7-5 6-4 upset, coming back from 6-3 2-0 down.
Since April last year, Serena has won 57 matches and lost just three and the young Stephens can proudly say she belongs to the trio, ending Serena’s 20-match winning streak which included the 2013 Brisbane International title en route to which Serena actually beat Stephens.
Moreover, at the Australian Open Serena’s performance was again extremely solid, despite the ankle injury threat in the first round. Even though helped by Serena’s mid-match back injury (how unfortunate for Serena!), Sloane’s victory is a huge breakthrough in her career and she’s the first American teenager to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam since Williams achieved the feat at the 2001 US Open.
Another immense challenge is in front of Stephens tomorrow, as she faces world No.1 Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals. Azarenka dispatched Svetlana Kuznetsova earlier on Wednesday 7-5 6-1. The other semifinal is between Li Na and Maria Sharapova. (photo: © Neal Trousdale)
Li Na and Sloane Stephens – giant killers! Can’t wait for the final.
After Serena went out, my enthusiasm was thoroughly deflated for the open. But now its back! After Serena, Vika and Li are probably my two favorite players to watch. I really didn’t want to see another Vika-Maria showdown. But now this matchup should be a good one! Provided Vika isn’t really all that injured and/or Li doesn’t leave her mental fortitude in her hotel room come the final!