American teenager Sloane Stephens sent injured tournament favourite Serena Williams crashing out of the Australian Open quarter-finals today.
Stephens held her nerve to win 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 in 2hr 17 min after Williams, already troubled by an ankle injury, needed treatment for back spasms.
Stephens broke Williams to win the match and set up a semi-final tomorrow with Victoria Azarenka, the women’s world No 1.
“Last night I was thinking about it and ... someone asked me like, ‘Do you think you can win?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I think so’, but I wasn’t too clear about it,” Stephens told reporters after pulling off the biggest upset of this year’s tournament.
“Then this morning when I got up, I was, ‘Look, dude, you can do this. Go out and play and do your best.’”
Stephens took heart after fighting back from 2-0 down in the second set after losing her serve, and began going for broke against the 15-times grand slam champion.
“From then on I got aggressive, started coming to the net more, and just got a lot more comfortable,” she said.
“I just kind of played my game from there, I think.”
Andy Murray ruthlessly dismissed unseeded Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-4 6-1 6-2 to reach the Australian Open semi-finals for the fourth year in a row.
The third seeded Briton had spent just over seven hours on court in his previous four matches and only needed another 111 minutes to complete a one-sided hammering of the world number 36.
Chardy had won the last meeting between the two in Cincinnati in August but another upset was never on the cards and the US Open champion wrapped up victory when the Frenchman ballooned a forehand into the sky on Rod Laver Arena.
Murray, runner up at Melbourne Park in 2010 and 2011, will play Roger Federer after the Swiss passed a stiff five-set test against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Federer needed all his coolness and concentration as he was twice pegged back from a set lead before taking it 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 3-6, 6-3, reaching his 33rd Grand Slam semi-final.
"It was a tough close for sure, but the whole match was tough," he said. "Any set could have gone either way. It's tough because you never know what Jo's going to come up with."
Defending champion Victoria Azarenka won a first-set war of attrition before crushing Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5 6-1 to march into the semi-finals.
The world number one was pushed to the wall by the 27-year-old Russian, who played more like a two-time grand slam winner than her current world No. 75 ranking.
Azarenka established her dominance in the second set, however, to set up a semi-final against Sloane Stephens.
“It would be silly to say I’m not excited, I’m not nervous,” said Azarenka.
“I think the person who is never nervous is a really scary person. I mean, is a robot really.
“Everybody has emotions. It’s just a matter how well you can ... control them for you to feel good before you go on court or when you’re on the court.”
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