Li Na and Victoria Azarenka in 2013 Australian Open tennis final

Sloane Stephens saw her sensational tournament run come to an end in the semifinals. Photo: Sloane Stephens / AP Photo Rob Griffith

SAN DIEGO, January 23, 2013 –  Sloane Stephens became an overnight sensation to much of the U.S. after her shocking defeat of Serena Williams Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the 2013 Australian Open. She went from 17,000 to 51,000 Twitter followers. She received well wishes from athletes and celebrities, and faced the inevitable crush of media attention.

She didn’t have much time to think about it as she faced the number one seed in the tournament, Victoria Azarenka. Perhaps Stephens didn’t have enough left after defeating Williams. With her famous fan Redfoo from LMFAO cheering her on from the stands, Azarenka won in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4.

The final game contained enough drama for the entire match. Azarenka needed six match points interrupted by a ten minute medical timeout for reported knee and rib problems before coming back to win the game, set, and match.

After the match, Azarenka said she couldn’t breathe; observers said she seemed to have a panic attack, and left in the midst of Stephens having the serve, which was the equivalent in tennis of icing the placekicker in football. If so, it worked.

Stephens had a sensational run, but came up short against the experience of the number one player in the world.

It remains a significant accomplishment, by far the biggest of Stephens’ career and the most significant for a young American player in a dozen years. She will crack the Top 20 in the WTA rankings for the first time. It will be exciting to watch her in the big tournaments to come the rest of 2013. Meanwhile, follow her on Twitter at @sloanetweets

“Nerves got into me, for sure… It was important to overcome this little bit of a struggle and get back in the match. I just couldn’t lose, that’s why I was so upset,” said Azarenka after the match. “I almost did the choke of the year.”

China’s Li Na celebrates after defeating Russia’s Maria Sharapova in their semifinal match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Thursday, Jan. 24. AP Photo/Dita Alangkara

Azarenka will face sixth ranked Li Na of China in the final on Sunday, who derailed Maria Sharapova’s run to the finals with a 6-2, 6-2 straight set victory with comparative ease. Before the quarterfinal with Li Na, Sharapova had powered through her matches, losing just nine of 69 total games the entire tournament. She lost 12 games to Li Na, and was cleared frustrated at her performance.

Russia’s Maria Sharapova reacts during her semifinal match against China’s Li Na at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013. AP Photo/Dita Alangkara

The women’s final will be played Saturday at 3 a.m. Eastern Time and can be seen live on ESPN and online at WatchESPN.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She writes on professional cycling and covers the Sweet Science for Communities, along with other news in the sports world. Read Ringside Seat in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google+


Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities at” when quoting from or linking to this story.   

Copyright © 2013 by Falcon Valley Group

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Gayle Falkenthal

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, MS, APR, is President of the Falcon Valley Group, a San Diego based communications consulting firm. Falkenthal is a veteran award winning broadcast and print journalist, editor, producer, talk host and commentator. She is an instructor at National University in San Diego, and previously taught in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.


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