Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Sloane Stephens d. Serena Williams (Australian Open Quarter-Final)

Sloane Stephens entered the court leading Serena, headphones in her ear, listening to, well I don't know what she was listening to ;).

Serena Williams walked right behind Sloane Stephens, looking at the pictures of the past champions as she was walking past the gallery.

It was the second meeting of the pair, with Serena winning their quarter-final clash in Brisbane International at the start of the year, however, it was Serena, who commented on the potential of Stephens after that match and said that Stephens will go as high as world no.1.

Serena Williams started the match in her usual way, firing un-returned serves and held her serve at 15. Stephens responded in the same way and held at love with two un-returned serves, an ace and a winner. Serena Williams responded like-wise with a love hold, Serena started the pattern and Stephens followed it. Stephens did not lose a point on her serve till 4-3. Serving to level the score at 4-all Stephens sent a fore-hand long to lose first point on her serve, a winner from Serena and a double fault from Stephens brought 3 break-points for Serena. Stephens saved the first break point by a winner, and the second on an unforced error from Serena, but on the third Stephens sent a fore-hand long to give Serena the break and a chance to serve for the set, which she complied to win the first 6-3 in just 28 minutes.

Sloane Stephens started the 2nd set in a nervous fashion going down 15-40 on her serve. A big serve saved one break point. A 20 shot rally ensued where Stephens had Serena on the run but the rally ended with Stephens unforced error there-by giving Serena early lead in the second set.

Serena Williams held at 15 to lead 2-0. Stephens held her serve to keep the deficit to one break of serve. Serena Williams' serve started with Stephens going for a winner, Serena had all the court but missed an easy forehand sending it long. Stephens barely putting the serve back in play and waiting for Serena to make an error and Serena complied and Stephens got the break and the set back on serve.
Stephens won the next game by a wonderful passing shot to lead Serena for the first time in the match. Stephens held for 3-2 in the second set. Stephens got a look at the break point on Serena's serve but Serena brought out the Acerena in herself to erase the break-point and hold for 3-all. Stephens held at 15 on her serve to go up 4-3.

Stephens put up a great show to break Serena at 15 to give herself a chance to serve for the set. Stephens raced to 30-0 on her serve, but failed to find first serves and Serena smacked return winners on those serves to get  to 30 all. A good first serve brought Stephens her first set point, nerves started creeping in and Stephens put an easy back-hand long and the game went to deuce. Stephens double-faulted at the worst possible time to give Serena a break point and sent a fore-hand long to get the set back to serve.

Serena twisted her ankle during the game and immediately after breaking Stephens asked for a trainer. Serena was taken off court for treatment, and when she returned she looked visibly bothered by her back since her first serve speed fell to mid 80's mph, Stephens was unable to capitalise on this and Williams held to bring it to 5-all. Stephens saved a break point and held to force Serena to serve to stay in the set again.
Stephens got very defensive on Serena's serve, waiting for Serena to make an error, and missed on her first break point. However, an over-cooked fore-hand form Williams gave Stephens a break point and a netted fore-hand from Williams gave Stephens the 2nd set, 7-5. The 2nd set lasted 58 minutes. Winners-unforced errors differential from Stephens was -5, while for Serena it was a whooping -11, Serena won only 5 of the 14 points played on her 2nd serve.

Third set started with each player holding her serve easily. Stephens held for a 2-1 lead and Serena smashed her racquet on the change of ends breaking it, which pretty much summed up her day. Stephens got a look at a break-point, but Serena sent a big serve erasing it and holding for 2-all in the third set. Stephens held for 3-2. Stephens got to 30-0 on Serena's serve but was unable to win another point. Serena let out a huge 'C'mon' as she held her serve for 3-all. Stephens went down two break points on her serve, but played two great points to save them. Sent sent a fore-hand long to give Serena another chance, however, she saved this as Serena netted a forehand. A return winner on Stephens second serve and a forehand into the net from Stephens gave Serena the break she was looking for. It seemed that Stephens was done for the match, but she pushed Serena to the limits and broke right away to bring the match back to serve.

Stephens saved yet another 2 break points on her serve and forced Serena to serve to stay in the match. A fore-hand long from Williams gave the first point to Stephens, a massive forehand into the corner to draw a short ball from Stephens and smack a winner to win the point for 15-all. On the next point, Serena had all the court to put the ball away, but she sent the fore-hand long, and on the next point sent a fore-hand into the net to give Stephens 2 match points. Another fore-hand into the net and Stephens could not believe it. She looked stunned as she sent the 5 time Australian Open champion, Serena Williams, out of the tournament.

It was a bad day for Serena Williams and probably bad two weeks for Serena Williams, as she was already suffering from a right sprained ankle from her first round win. The back issue that spurred during the back added to it. Serena had already exclaimed that she was having the worst ever two weeks of her life.

Stephens after the hand shake immediately took out her cell-phone to see if she had any message from her mother.

"No, God, I don't know, Oh My God" that was how Stephens summed up her win over Serena Williams in her on-court interview.
"My grand-parents must be watching this and they must be going crazy".
"Yeah! I was hoping she might have texted me right away" when asked about was she checking on a message from her mother.

A few days back a renowned tennis writer tweeted that should Stephens make the quarter-final, she would have done so without beating a player ranked above 45.

I said to her that she can beat only who comes into her way, and the reply was in order to be a top player, you have to beat player, and my response was that she will hopefully beat the top players when she faces them.

 I hope that Stephens has now proved her point by beating the best player at the moment, Serena Williams.

The emotions shown by Stephens were of pure joy, she was asked had she ever imagined she will be in such a stage and beat her idol at this age," No, I can't imagine" and tears started rolling through her eyes, tears of happiness.

For now on, Serena Williams goes home and Sloane Stephens goes on to the semi-finals where she will be playing the world no.1, Victoria Azarenka for the first time, for a place in her maiden grand slam final. 

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