Upstart stops Williams’ run as Azarenka reaches semisMELBOURNE, Australia - Serena Williams’ dominating run at the majors is over, and American teenager Sloane Stephens is headed to the semifinals of the Australian Open.
Williams hurt her back in the eighth game of the second set, hampering her serve. She had treatment and recovered well enough to give herself a shot at winning the match, but the 19-year-old Stephens kept her composure in a 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory on Wednesday.
It was the first loss since Aug. 17 for the 15-time Grand Slam winner, ending a run of 20 consecutive wins. She hadn’t lost a match at a Grand Slam tournament since the French Open, where her first-round exit sparked a resurgence in the second half of 2012 that included titles at Wimbledon, the London Olympics, the U.S. Open and the WTA Championship.
After winning her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, Stephens next plays defending champion Victoria Azarenka.
Williams walked around the net to congratulate Stephens, who then clapped her hand on her racket and waved to the crowd, a look of disbelief on her face.
Stephens has said she had a poster of Williams in her room when she was a child and had long admired the Williams sisters.
“This is so crazy. Oh my goodness,” Stephens said, wiping away tears in her post-match TV interview. “I think I’ll put a poster of myself (up) now.”
For her part, Williams said the bad back was just another problem to contend with at a Grand Slam event that had been “absolutely” her worst for injuries.
“Everyone at this stage in the locker room has something wrong with them. It’s no excuse,” she said. “I went for this drop shot and it just locked up on me. I couldn’t really rotate after that. It was a little painful, but it’s OK.”
In the men’s quarterfinals, 17-time major winner Roger Federer was playing No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a night match and U.S. Open champion Andy Murray was to meet Jeremy Chardy of France.
Novak Djokovic is already through to the semifinals after his 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych on Tuesday night.
The 2-hour, 31-minute victory took exactly half the time of his five-set, fourth-round win against Stanislas Wawrinka.
“It was a great performance. I was hoping to have a shorter match ... just not to go over five hours,” Djokovic said, in a comparatively subdued mood after a more routine victory. “It’s always going to be tough against Tomas; he’s an established player. He has a big game, big serve. He can compete against anyone on any surface.”
Djokovic will meet No. 4-seeded David Ferrer in the semifinals. AP