An all-American upset: Teen Sloane ends Serena run
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What was supposed to be a learning experience against one of the greatest tennis players in history turned instead into one of the bigger surprises in tennis history as the 19-year-old Sloane Stephens introduced herself to a global audience by rallying to defeat her 31-year-old American elder, Serena Williams, on Wednesday, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.
Williams is a 15-time Grand Slam singles champion and was the No. 3 seed and a heavy favorite at the Australian Open. But what made the quarterfinal result all the more unexpected was that she has been as dominant of late as she has been at any time in the past: sweeping to the Wimbledon, Olympic and U.S. Open titles last year, then winning 20 straight matches coming into this quarterfinal.
But the streak and Williams's newfound tranquility on court came crashing to a halt on this cool, sunlit afternoon in Rod Laver Arena as Williams — frustrated by a back problem and Stephens's precocious blend of offense and defense — smashed her racket to smithereens early in the third set.
As a result, there will be no rematch between Williams and the world No. 1, Victoria Azarenka, in the semifinals Thursday. Instead it will be Azarenka vs. the 29th-seeded Stephens, who until this trip to Australia had never been past the fourth round in a Grand Slam tournament. Though Stephens has had other tennis role models, including Kim Clijsters, it was a poster of Williams that once adorned her wall. "This is so crazy, but oh my goodness," Stephens said, wiping away tears in her post-match interview. "I think I'll put a poster of myself now."
It was the second Grand Slam shock of late for Williams, who was beaten in the first round of the French Open last year by the unseeded Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano. But this was the first time that Williams, the best player of her generation, had been beaten by a younger American in tournament play.
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