Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Sloane Stephens stuns Serena Williams to reach semis

January 23, 2013 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
  • 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
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1252 GMT (2052 HKT)
As a player he was as fiery as his hair -- and as Novak Djokovic's coach, Boris Becker says he has to battle to keep his emotions in check.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1102 GMT (1902 HKT)
Tennis great Boris Becker says he was stunned by the level of criticism he received after being appointed as Novak Djokovic's coach.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1101 GMT (1901 HKT)
"I didn't cry once when I practiced in front of the mirror," says Martin Emmrich. But the nerves kicked in when he got down on one knee on court.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
When Agnieszka Radwanska refused to look her opponent in the eye after losing at Wimbledon, it raised more than eyebrows.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 0114 GMT (0914 HKT)
It's 10 years since a teenage Maria Sharapova became the darling of Wimbledon's hallowed Center Court, launching herself as a star.
Rafael Nadal is still the "King of Clay" -- but his crown has slipped a bit, says CNN's Will Edmonds.
May 23, 2014 -- Updated 0746 GMT (1546 HKT)
He's regularly voted France's favorite famous person, but many of the nation's youth have "no idea" about his glorious sporting past
May 5, 2014 -- Updated 2359 GMT (0759 HKT)
British tennis player Elena Baltacha won 11 ITF Pro Circuit titles during her 16-year playing career.
The Ukrainian-born, British tennis star loses fight against liver cancer, just a few weeks after revealing that she was battling the disease.
April 29, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Five-time grand slam champion Martina Hingis has followed her mom into a coaching role, setting up a new tennis academy in Barcelona, Spain.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1238 GMT (2038 HKT)
Suisse's Belinda Bencic returns the ball to France's Alize Cornet during the second match of the Fed Cup first round tennis tie France vs Switzerland on February 8, 2014 at the Pierre de Coubertin stadium in Paris. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
It's no easy matter becoming a world class tennis player. It's even harder when everyone (really -- everyone) is calling you the "new Martina Hingis."
April 2, 2014 -- Updated 1420 GMT (2220 HKT)
At the 2009 Australian Open, French men's tennis was the talk of the town.
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1800 GMT (0200 HKT)
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.