23rd of January 2013 Author: Glo Wood
Title favourite Serena Williams made a surprising exit at the Australian Open as injury hindered her hopes against Sloane Stephens in the quarter-finals. The 15-time Grand Slam champion led her fellow American by a set and a break, but after being treated for a back spasm in the second set went down 3-6 7-5 6-4. Williams was heard on court to say it had been the "worst two weeks" as she has struggled with ankle and back issues.
"I'm almost relieved that it's over because there's only so much I felt I could do. I was unaware the microphones picked that up. But, it's been a little difficult. I've been thrown a lot of balls these two weeks." Asked about the back problem, Williams said: "I think everyone at this stage in the locker room has something wrong with them, so it's fine. There's no excuse there."
Stephens, who is just 19 years old, is on course to break into the world's top 20 and was playing in her first Grand Slam quarter-final. Williams looked in control in the first set as she bagged five straight games from 3-3. But Williams came into the match carrying an ankle injury and appeared to make that injury worse in the second set. The 31-year-old American shrieked in pain while rushing forward for a ball at 4-3 down and the doctor was called at the next changeover, prompting Williams to head off court for treatment.
Williams battled on but Stephens took full advantage of her opponent's condition. The younger player was the stronger in the closing stages of the match and wrapped it up when Williams hit the net on match point.
"I think I was convinced that I was able to do it when I lost serve in the first game in the second set and I went down 2 0," she said. "I was like, this is not the way you want it to happen. But you just fight and get every ball back, run every ball down, and just get a lot of balls in play. From then on I got aggressive, started coming to the net more, and got a lot more comfortable. I just played my game from there."
The rising star of women's tennis will take on defending champion and world number one Victoria Azarenka in the semi-finals on Thursday. Sloane Stephens is priced at 12/1 by Bet365 to win the Australian Open, while Azarenka is priced at 11/8. The favourite is Maria Sharapova, priced at 1/1.
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