By Ann Liguori
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In the most compelling match-up of the tournament so far, top seed and defending champion Serena Williams showed fellow American Sloan Stephens who’s boss, despite losing to her in three sets at the Australian Open this past January.
Playing as if she was showing that no one, particular Stephens, should question her status in the game as the top-ranked player in the world and winner of 16 Grand Slam singles titles, Serena silenced 20-year-old Stephens, 6-4, 6-1.
Serena’s serve was on the money. The soon to be 32-year-old smacked 22 winners and she took advantage of Stephen’s 29 unforced errors.
But when the two players first entered the court, you could cut the tension with a knife. And nerves from both players played a big part in the first set where Serena first broke Stephens to go up 4-2 and then double-faulted twice in a row to hand Stephens the break before breaking Stephens again to take the first set 6-4.
After Stephens beat Serena in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open this past January, there were reports of bad blood between the two. Stephens was quoted as saying that Serena had not said a word to her since that match and had un-followed her on twitter. It sounds like the stuff of teen-age girls, not competitors on the pro stage.
In Serena’s post-match interview on court on Saturday, she made reference to the fact that it’s so nice to have such great young, American up-and-coming talent.
It seems as if Serena took the high-road, never getting involved in the supposed rift other than a tweet that Serena sent out right after the Australian Open that said ‘I made you’ that supposedly Stephens thought was aimed at her.
After Stephens lost on Sunday, she said, “I mean, obviously she’s No. 1 in the world for a reason. I thought she played really well herself. Obviously it didn’t go how I wanted. The second set got away from me a little bit.” Later in the interview, Stephens said “It’s an honor to be able to play on the court with one of the greatest tennis players of all time….”
In today’s ‘revenge’ match, Serena didn’t let her forget that.
Nobody will beat Serena here. Particularly since the most important match to her at this tournament, is behind her.