WIMBLEDON, England – It was just last January that a teenage Sloane Stephens stunned the tennis world by toppling Serena Williams in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. Monday at Wimbledon, the 20-year-old Stephens outshone Williams yet again, though the two Americans competed on different courts.
Within minutes of Williams’ shocking defeat on Centre Court, where the five-time and defending champion squandered a 3-0, third-set lead in falling to Germany’s Sabine Lisicki, Stephens wrapped up a come-from-behind victory over Monica Puig amid far less fanfare on a decidedly less grand court.
It was Stephens’ third consecutive three-sets victory, this one 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. Rather than grow discouraged over having to claw back from deficits, Stephens appears to draw confidence from it.
I have to be patient with myself, said Stephens, a South Florida native whose mother was a collegiate swimmer and her late father, John Stephens, killed in a car crash in 2009, was an NFL running back. I have been in some tough situations. Today I was down the whole time, pretty much. I had to keep fighting, really compete to be able to get the win.
That leaves the 17th-seeded Stephens the lone American standing at the All England Club, where injury and upsets have decimated Wimbledon’s field.
On the women’s side, Lisicki’s 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 triumph over Williams brought to seven the number of top-10 seeds bounced from the field, leaving the Venus Rosewater Dish, awarded the women’s champion, truly up for grabs.
From Williams’ perspective, Stephens has a strong chance to claim it Saturday.
I think she can take it, Williams said of Stephens, who has yet to win any top-level pro tournament. It would be really nice to see her.
Stephens’ march into Wimbledon’s final eight reflects her steady progression these last months. She reached the semifinals of the Australian Open and the Round of 16 at the French Open, earning a reputation as a diligent worker, determined fighter and big-game player en route.
We talk about it all the time: You’ve got to work really hard to accomplish your goals and your dreams, explained Sybil Smith, Stephens’ mother. It may not happen when you want it to, but it’ll happen on its own time.