The tournament’s first shocker – 19 year old American Sloane Stephens took out Serena Williams today in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. What? I know she’s an up-and-comer but I wasn’t expecting the charming, slamming Sloane to just up and arrive already, not against someone like Serena.
Sloane has a smooth, powerful and versatile game and she used it to great effect against her countrywoman, who had never lost to a younger American before. In fact, no American teenager has reached a Major semifinal since Serena did it herself way back at the US Open in 2001 (via tennis.com). It was a tense match – Serena suffered back spasms in the second set that severely hampered her service motion – and at first it seemed like Sloane might not be able to handle the challenge of playing a wounded warrior like Serena. But she gathered her game and her nerve and closed up the match with a veteran’s determination.
As for the real veteran, Serena is out but not too down: “I’m never retiring!” she quipped in the post-match presser. But it sounds like she’s ready to move on: “I’ve had a tough two weeks, between the ankle, my back. . .I’m almost relieved that it’s over. There’s only so much I can do.” She can’t win the doubles, either, as she and Venus were ousted from the draw yesterday by the team of are out of Vinci/Errani.
Serena’s injury means that those who are inclined to, can put an asterisk next to Sloane’s victory. But if you’re Sloane, who cares? This win means a lot more for her career than the loss does for Serena. Sure, Serena must be sorely disappointed, but she’s suffered her share of shockers and will rise again (I’m already looking forward to her going on a tear at Roland Garros.) But for a next generation of American player to take out a legend like Serena – well, it’s hard not to get giddy about Sloane’s future and the future of American tennis.
The immediate future – I can’t wait to see how Sloane holds up against her next opponent, Victoria Azarenka.
In the other side of the draw, Sharapova plays Li Na. They’ve had some tight matches in the past, and I think this could be a good one. Maria’s only lost nine games on her way to the semis and must be doing a little dance now that her nemesis is out of the tournament. Despite her form, I still think the other ladies have a chance.
Exciting stuff! What do you predict going forward?