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Austrailian Open All Atwitter About Stephens

January 24, 2013
By JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

MELBOURNE, Australia - Sloane Stephens wiped away tears as she thought about hanging a poster of herself on a wall in the place of her childhood hero.

The 19-year-old American seemed to be in shock, barely able to compute how she'd produced the upset of the Australian Open by beating 15-time major winner Serena Williams in the quarterfinals Wednesday. It was her first trip that far in seven Grand Slam tournaments.

A poster of Williams had adorned the wall on Stephens' bedroom as a child. Now, in her view, they're peers.

"This is so crazy," Stephens said in a post-match TV interview after rallying from a set and a break down against an injured and angry Williams.

The 29th-seeded Stephens won 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. She calmed the nerves and started swinging harder and lifting her tempo at 4-3 in the second.

That's when Williams jarred her back trying to pull up before the net as she chased down a drop shot. Williams let out a loud scream and hopped away. Stephens had a look back over the net, seemingly in concern.

Williams started taking time between points, limping, and trying to stay in the shade at the back of the court.

Williams later called for the trainer between games. She had a three-minute medical timeout and came back serving at a pace well below her usual speed.

Stephens had practiced with Williams for the Fed Cup, but had played her only once, a straight sets loss at the Brisbane International earlier this month.

"Brisbane helped me because I got the first time we played out of the way," she said. "First time is always tough. Definitely I was glad that I got it there ... it helped me raise my level."

She'll need to maintain that level within 24 hours to play the top-ranked Azarenka on Thursday. That will follow the semifinal between No. 2-ranked Maria Sharapova and No. 6 Li Na, the 2011 French Open champion.

The makeup of the men's semifinals was as expected, although all but one of the four players had some difficulties getting there.

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic will continue his bid for a third consecutive Australian title Thursday when he takes on No. 4 David Ferrer. No. 2 Roger Federer and No. 3 Andy Murray will meet Friday.

Djokovic had to get through a five-hour five-setter against No. 15 Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round. Ferrer had trouble in his quarterfinal against Nicolas Almagro, who served for the match in the third and fourth sets before losing in five.

Federer, a 17-time Grand Slam champion, hadn't dropped serve in the tournament until the first set against 2008 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Wednesday. He ended up with a struggle on his hands before advancing to his 10th consecutive Australian Open semifinal with a 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-3 win in 3 hours, 34 minutes.

Murray beat Jeremy Chardy of France 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 earlier Wednesday and hasn't dropped a set this tournament.

 
 

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