Serena Williams was the pre-tournament favorite to win the Australian Open and for good reason–she had been a dominating presence on the women’s tennis circuit since the middle of last summer and appeared to be in top form heading into this year. Not so fast–after what Williams claims was a mid match ‘back injury’ she went down in flames to American teenager Sloane Stephens. Serena won the first set but it was all Stephens after that as she went on to win 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.
Most impressive was Stephens composure throughout the match and Serena’s meltdown. She sounded nonplussed in her post match comments:
“I was stretching, and I was like, ‘I’m in the semis of a Grand Slam.’ I was like, ‘Whoa. It wasn’t as hard as I thought.’ But it’s pretty cool. To be in the semis of a Grand Slam is definitely I say a good accomplishment. A lot of hard work.”
The #29 ranked Stephens said she gave herself a ‘pep talk’:
“When I got up, I was like, ‘Look, Dude, like, you can do this.’ Like, ‘Go out and play and do your best.”
She reaffirmed her commitment to win after losing the first set:
“I was like, ‘Hmm, this is not the way you want it to happen. But you just fight and just get every ball back, run every ball down, and just get a lot of balls in play, I think you’ll be OK.”
“From then on I got aggressive, started coming to the net more, and just got a lot more comfortable.”
After the match she came up with a great one-liner after admitting she once had a Serena Williams poster on her wall:
“This is so crazy. Oh my goodness. I think I’ll put a poster of myself (up) now.”
While Stephens celebrated Serena continued to sell her back injury:
“I’m almost relieved that it’s over because there’s only so much I felt I could do. It’s been a little difficult. I’ve been thrown a lot of (curve) balls these two weeks.”
Stephens faces an uphill battle if she wants to win the entire tournament. She faces defending champion Victoria Azerenka in the semifinals. Bet 365 has Azerenka installed as a -800 favorite with takeback on Stephens at +500.