Stephens' First Grand Slam Quarterfinal

Sloane Stephens rallied to beat Bojana Jovanovski and reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, a win that will also push her into the Top 20 for the first time. Serena Williams awaits.

Published January 21, 2013 12:00

Stephens' First Grand Slam Quarterfinal
Sloane Stephens

MELBOURNE, Australia - Sloane Stephens fought herself and an inspired opponent on Monday to break through to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the Australian Open - as well as the world's Top 20.

Facing Grand Slam second week debutante Bojana Jovanovski, the No.29-seeded Stephens rebounded from a mid-match lapse - she lost five straight games from 3-all in the second set and found herself down 2-0 in the third - and eventually closed the aggressive Jovanovski out in overtime, 61 36 75.

"She played well. She played very well," Stephens said. "First set I came out, I was playing well, not missing much - she was making a few errors. Then she brought it full force in the second and third sets. I just had to find a way. Mentally it was pretty tough. I was thinking, 'Oh my God, this is for the quarters of a Grand Slam and I'm completely just like not here right now. I really needed to refocus.

"I was playing myself, you could say. But I managed to get through."

Stephens was asked in her presser about Jovanovski's down-the-lines. "Honestly, I've never played someone who, literally - if any of you guys play tennis, do tennis drills, one person goes crosscourt, one person goes down the line. I was going crosscourt on all my shots. That was safe. Can't lose with that. But she was going down the line on every shot. It's hard to run back and forth and go down the line. She's hitting it with everything she has, every muscle in her body, and hitting it unbelievable. The first balls were coming back extremely hard. I couldn't find a rhythm, couldn't find anything.

"But sometimes you just kind of stick it out, and hopefully she comes down off her throne."

Next up for Stephens is No.3 seed Serena Williams, who was in vintage form in the feature night match on Rod Laver Arena, blasting 22 winners to just six unforced errors - and putting together an incredible 87% first serve percentage - during a 57-minute, 62 60 victory over No.14 seed Maria Kirilenko.

"I was surprised. I felt like Maria played really well - I was just trying to play well, just to keep up," Williams said after the match. "I've definitely never hit that high of a first serve percentage because I take a lot of chances with my serve. It was good. I really want to be able to keep it up."

Williams and Stephens played for the first time in Brisbane two weeks ago, Williams winning in two.

Stephens was asked if it would be difficult to play someone with such legendary status. "Yeah, but that would be if I was playing Sharapova, she's won Grand Slams; if I was playing Venus, she's won Grand Slams; it just happens to be Serena," she said. "She's obviously one of the greatest players ever to play the game. Without all that, it's still a tennis match. You have to go out and play your game, no matter what. Without the titles, with the titles, it's still a tennis match. The court's the same size.

"You just have to go out and play."

"She's been doing amazing, I'm really happy," Williams said of Stephens. "I took a lot from our match in Brisbane. She plays well. Like I said after that match, she can be the greatest player.

"I feel like for me it will be another good match and a good opportunity for both of us. Definitely one of us will be in the semifinals here, which I think is awesome. So it's going to be good."

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