Stephens says idol Serena is 'just another match'

by Martin Parry, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 22 2013 01:45 PM | Updated as of Jan 22 2013 09:45 PM

MELBOURNE - American teen tennis sensation Sloane Stephens Monday insisted her Australian Open quarter-final clash with her idol Serena Williams is "just another match" and she will not be star-struck.

The 19-year-old, whose poise and power has seen her compared to a young Williams, is seen as one of the brightest talents in the women's game and she reinforced that view by reaching her first Grand Slam quarter-final.

Serbia's Bojana Jovanovski put her through her paces before she prevailed 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 to set up a clash with the 15-time Grand Slam champion, who has won the Australian Open five times.

Stephens has already played Williams once this year, at the Brisbane International where she lost 6-4, 6-3, also in the quarters, and said she would treat Wednesday's clash as she would any match.

"She's obviously one of the greatest players to ever play the game. Without all that, it's still a tennis match," she said.

"You have to go out and play your game, no matter what. Without the titles, with the titles, it's still a tennis match.

"The court's the same size. You're still playing a regular person across the net. You've just got to go out and play."

Despite Williams first playing Grand Slams tennis while Stephens was only five years old, the teen insisted she would not be in awe, saying she got past that during their recent clash in Brisbane.

"I mean, that was two weeks ago now, three weeks ago," she said.

"I played seven other matches or eight other matches, so I'm kind of past what happened then.

"But I think definitely just treat it as another match. You just go out and do your best."

Against Jovanovski, Stephens steamrolled through the first set before the 56th-ranked Serb, 21, woke up and gave her a fright.

The American grabbed the decisive first break on the Serb's opening service game and she didn't look back in a set that lasted just 25 minutes.

Jovanovski, another of the tour's big grunters, put up more of a fight as the second set got underway. Both players held serve for 2-2 before Stephens hit a backhand long to give the Serb her first glimmer of hope with a break.

But she threw it away immediately, netting a forehand at break point down before breaking straight back to go 4-3 in front as the intensity of the match rose.

Stephens was rattled and making mistakes as Jovanovski capitalised, winning her serve and then breaking again to take it into a deciding set.

Both players were struggling with their serve and the set saw five breaks as it turned into a baseline slugfest that Stephens finally won.

"First set I came out, I was playing good, not missing much. She was making a few errors," said Stephens.

"Then she brought it full force second, third set. I just had to find a way. I think mentally it was pretty tough."

© 1994-2012 Agence France-Presse