Teen Sloane Stephens Scores Shock Upset Over Serena Williams to Reach Australian Open Semis
Everybody knows that giddy teenage players used to rule – Hingis, Graf, Seles, Chrissie, Austin won many a duel.
Everybody knows the grave old ladies now prevail – Serena, Sharapova, Stosur, Li Na, Schiavone prefer not to fail.
Everybody knows Serena rules. She had dropped just one match since last June, for the others fell in their duels.
Everybody knows American tennis is dead. Andre and Pete are memories. Roddick’s resting on some bed. Isner’s in rehab. Mardy’s struggling. Querrey fell early, scratch your head.
Everybody knows Sloane Stephens is just a dreamer (well at least she’s not a screamer).
Everybody knows that tennis is a sport of cycles. The young talk big, the old seem wise.
Everybody knows that Serena was once an innocent who won her first Grand Slam when she was 19 without a care; a bounce in her step, beads in her hair.
Everybody knows the clock is clicking. Injuries mount, rivals emerge. Everybody knows.
Everyone knows that the Stephens-Serena quarterfinal was hyped big, the clash of the generations; mentor vs. apprentice. Can the kid down her idol whose poster had been on her wall? Nothing to lose, just take a fall.
Everybody knew that Stephens, seeded 29th, had little hope. Serena not only had convincingly beaten her in a warmup, Williams the Younger had fallen just once since the French Open, had won 20 straight matches and had collected 28 straight sets. And she'd lost only 8 games in the tournament. And then, when Serena routinely collected a 6-3 first set win and was up 2-0 in the second, everyone knew the match was over, no reason to hover. Too often you have to lose a big quarterfinal match before you can win one.
But everyone knows, this is sport.
And, in a flash, the most dominant player of our era, Lady Serena, rushed to the net, slammed on the breaks and shouted in agony as her already injured ankle locked and her back went into pain. Alas, now maybe Sloane wouldn’t be slain.
Everybody wondered – had the set, the match, the tournament and the script for women’s tennis early this year just shifted? Our diva was hobbled. Now Serena’s moan might mean a win for Sloane.
But hold on. Everybody knows that Serena is (even more then Sharapova) the greatest fighter in this sport and just maybe any other sport. Hadn’t she just told us that, despite her painful ankle, “I’m still alive. I’m still going to be playing.”
And everybody knew newbie Stephens, who has never beaten anyone in the Top 10, could tighten up, choke a bit and fail to close out the gimpy Ms. Serena.
And indeed the mighty champion winced and muttered and mashed her Wilson and then, after dropping the second set, somehow willed her way back in a sketchy but dramatic battle and went on to score a seemingly decisive break to go up 4-3 in the third set.
Everybody knew the bubble burst. Sloane had plenty of defense, but not much deference for Serena.
But now she would surely defer. The Grand Lady had never lost to any American younger then her, and with 15 Slam titles was just two games from victory. Destiny would give her her due. Plus, no American woman not named Williams had reached a Slam semi since ’05. No American teen had been in a Slam semi since ’01.
Yes, everybody knew that kid Stephens – great forehand, feathery movement, edgy volleys, surprisingly solid nerves – is a bundle of grit. The girl has pedigree. Her mom was a champion swimmer, her late father played for the Patriots. And she’s got game.
Still we were shocked when she tapped into a calm resolve beyond her years and broke back and, with lightning speed, pocketed three straight games to prevail 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 in one of the most astounding upsets ever crafted at Laver Arena.
“I’m seeing a champion of the future,” gushed broadcaster Chris Bowers.
And now everybody knows, the future is at last now.