Skip to main content

Sloane Stephens stuns Serena Williams to reach semis

updated 8:10 AM EST, Wed January 23, 2013
  • Sloane Stephens beats compatriot Serena Williams to reach Australian Open semis
  • The 19-year-old came from one set down to defeat the third seed
  • Stephens will play her first ever grand slam semifinal against world No.1 Victoria Azarenka
  • Top seed Azarenka beat Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5 6-1

(CNN) -- American teenager Sloane Stephens stunned her compatriot Serena Williams on Wednesday, beating the 15-time grand slam winner 3-6 7-5 6-4 to reach the Australian Open semifinals.

The 29th seed, playing in her first grand slam quarterfinal, came from once set down to overcome third seed Williams who suffered a back injury having already rolled an ankle earlier in the tournament.

Despite Williams' fitness problems, few had given Stephens a chance of beating the five-time Melbourne champion.

"Someone asked me, 'Do you think you can win?' I was like, 'Yeah, I think so, but I wasn't like too clear about it,''" the 19-year-old told reporters after advancing to a tie with world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka on Thursday.

Martina Navratilova takes on Pat Cash
Tennis stars take on the quick fire quiz
How do you beat Serena Williams?
Women's tennis top stars talk personal
Tennis stars face quickfire challenge
Clijsters reflects on career, family

"Then this morning when I got up, I was like, 'Look, dude, like, you can do this, go out and play and do your best.'"

Read: How women cracked tennis' glass ceiling

Stephens did not make the best possible start as Williams went one set and a break of serve ahead, before the 19-year-old American dug deep to pull out an unlikely triumph.

"You just fight and just get every ball back, run every ball down, and just get a lot of balls in play," said Stephens, explaining her strategy after the loss of that first set.

"From then on I got aggressive, started coming to the net more, and just got a lot more comfortable."

Stephens becomes the first U.S. teenager to reach a grand slam semfinal since Serena at the 2001 U.S. Open, and the first to achieve the feat outside of the Williams sisters since Alexandra Stevenson at Wimbledon in 1999.

Read: Martina - "Serena can break all of the records"

For Williams, it marked the end of a campaign which had pushed her body to the limit.

"I'm almost relieved that it's over because there's only so much I felt I could do," said the 31-year-old. "It's been a little difficult. I've been thrown a lot of balls these two weeks."

When one journalist asked Williams if she had considered retiring hurt during the match, it caused some confusion in the press room.

"Are you kidding me? I'm not retiring," responded Williams, believing the reporter was asking if she was considering ending her career.

"Oh, you mean, retiring in the match! Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you meant my career. You're crazy.

"I thought about it like for a nanosecond. It's a quarterfinal of a grand slam. Even if I have to take off in a wheeler before I retire."

Defending champion Azarenka had to battle through a tough 77-minute first set against Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, before winning 7-5 6-1.

When asked about Stephens prior to her victory against Williams, Belarus' Azarenka said: "I think Sloane is a very, very talented girl. I think over the last couple years you see her development, you know, as a tennis player.

"Her game has come together. She's an all round player, very competitive. I think she has a good potential. It's just a matter of her getting all those details in place and really wanting to achieve great things."

The second semifinal, also due to take place on Thursday, sees sixth seed Li Na take on No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova -- who is yet to drop at set at the tournament.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:20 AM EDT, Wed April 2, 2014
At the 2009 Australian Open, French men's tennis was the talk of the town.
updated 2:00 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - APRIL 14: Rafael Nadal of Spain sails a boat during day two of the ATP Monte Carlo Rolex Masters Tennis at Monte-Carlo Sporting Club on April 14, 2014 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal may be most at home on a clay tennis court, but he has always found comfort on the sea.
updated 7:07 AM EDT, Fri March 21, 2014
Tennis star Venus Williams reveals how she is beating the autoimmune disease that derailed her career.
updated 5:14 AM EST, Wed March 5, 2014
After two decades dedicated to the game, Amelie Mauresmo wants a second life -- one away from tennis.
Rafael Nadal of Spain wipes his face after losing his men's final match against Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland during day 14 of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 26, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.
Almost five years to the day after reducing Roger Federer to tears at the Australian Open, Rafael Nadal shed a few in his own loser's speech.
updated 9:48 PM EST, Sat February 1, 2014
Li Na outperformed Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open, but can she now surpass the Russian as the world's richest female athlete?
Roger Federer may have lost again to Rafael Nadal in the business end of a grand slam, but he can take some heart from yet another record says CNN's Will Edmonds.
updated 8:58 AM EST, Tue January 21, 2014
Roger Federer and Stefan Edberg, Novak Djokovic and Boris Becker -- today's tennis stars are teaming up with past legends of the game.
updated 1:59 PM EST, Wed January 15, 2014
Can't stand the heat of the first tennis grand slam of 2014? Then you clearly haven't been doing enough Bikram yoga.
After nearly a decade without any real change at the top of men's tennis, CNN's Will Edmonds looks at next generation of future stars.
updated 8:14 AM EST, Thu January 9, 2014
Ana Ivanovic is still seeking to rediscover the form that took her to the top of the rankings -- but she has found a new lease of life.
updated 6:42 AM EST, Mon January 6, 2014
As a teen sensation, Bernard Tomic had the tennis world at his feet -- but he's in danger of blowing it, says Australian great Pat Rafter.