Sloane Stephens: The Teenage Star Who Beat Serena Williams

Sloane Stephens defeated Williams in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open

January 23, 2013, 5:52 PM

Jan. 23, 2013 — -- Some may call it the shock heard around the tennis world.

Sloane Stephens defeated one of the greatest players to lace up tennis shoes, Serena Williams, a tennis player whose poster once adorned Stephens' bedroom wall.

The 19-year-old can now say she is the only American younger than Williams to beat the 31-year-old. Stephens, with a giant white smile from ear to ear, won 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 against Williams in the Australian Open quarterfinals Wednesday.

The match was the farthest Stephens has ever gotten in a Grand Slam tournament. Williams, on the other hand, is a 15-time major winner, a five-time Australian Open champion and was on a 20-match winning streak.

Unfortunately for Williams, she suffered injuries in her ankle and back during the game. She called a trainer onto the court and had a three-minute medical timeout.

When asked about the win, all 29th-seeded Stephens could manage to say was, "I don't even know. Oh, my goodness."

"While it's not good for Serena, it's a great development for U.S. tennis. They've been waiting for a long time for someone to come to the forefront," said Christine Brennan, a sports columnist for USA Today and sports consultant for ABC News. "It's too early to know what this will all mean, but it's possible that they may have found the next up-and-coming female star."

Even before Stephens started playing tennis, she had posters of both Williams sisters -- Serena and Venus -- up in her bedroom, her mother, Sybil Smith, told ABC News. When she began playing tennis at age 9, she began looking up to their game.

"The funny thing about it is we kind of have a joke with Team Sloane, with my family," Smith said. "We say, 'We think you can beat everyone but Serena because she's the best.' And that's a little bit of a joke, because she is the best. Sloane said she's arguably the greatest of all time. So Sloane always had in her mind that Serena would be extremely tough to beat."

Stephens played against Williams before in Brisbane, but this time around she was ready for the match-up.

"She wasn't so paranoid about playing Serena. She was excited to play Serena," Smith said. "She wasn't so concerned about the hype and playing the greatest of all time. She just changed her mind-set and said, 'You know, it's just another tennis match. I've got to go compete, no matter who I'm playing against.'"

Off the court, Stephens, originally of Plantation, Fla., but now living in Bel Air, Calif., is a typical teenager. She texts, she tweets, she loves spending time with friends, and she has a serious shopping addiction.

"I said I was going to buy one thing but now I'm going to buy two," she said in an interview just after the big win. "I was begging my mom for these pair of shoes, but I'm sure she'll have them waiting when I get home -- so I have to think of something quick so I can tell her, so she can have it when I get home."

Stephens told ESPN she had 145 text messages after her win. She added she hoped the win would get her more Twitter followers. Her followers shot from 17,000 before the competition to 46,300 and counting.

Stephens is also getting attention from Hollywood and other sports greats after her win.

"Just found out her dad is John Stephens from the Pats. (that's my real name) I had his football card when I was a kid. I was so proud, ha ha," John Legend tweeted. Stephens' father is a former New England Patriots player who died in a car accident in 2009.

"@sloanetweets congrats on a great match. Excellent focus n poise. Keep it goin. When u defeat a legend you become a legend. Keep it going," Shaquille O'Neal tweeted.

"Wow. What a win for Sloane. Some amazing defense. She gets every ball back," Dallas Mavericks player Dirk Nowitzki tweeted.

The real test now is to see how Stephens can handle the pressure of the main stage of tennis and if she can keep rising.

"Could Sloane put back-to-back matches together? How's she going to react?" Brennan wondered. "There are a lot of unknowns. Sloane is now going to enter a new phase of her career."

Stephens' mother said her daughter has a good head on her shoulders. She's determined to play her game the best that she can but she also schedules valuable time with friends and family.

"She called home last night right after the match. She was getting ready to go into press, and she goes, 'What are you guys doing?'" Smith said. "It was three minutes of what's going on at home right now. It wasn't even about tennis."