Article

Serena stays focused despite shock loss

23 January 2013 09:18

A wounded Serena Williams was gracious in defeat as Sloane Stephens ended her quest for a third successive grand slam on Wednesday.

The third seed's chances of victory in the quarter-finals at the Australian Open were hampered by a back injury in the second set which limited her serving and movement around the court.

But despite battling on, she was unable to topple 19-year-old Stephens, who completed a nerveless 3-6 7-5 6-4 win in front of a stunned Rod Laver Arena crowd.

Williams was gunning for a third straight grand slam title having won at Wimbledon and the US Open last year. It is her first loss since August, ending a run of 20 consecutive victories.

Asked about her injury after the match, Williams said: "It's fine. Just nothing. Everyone at this stage in the locker room has something wrong with them, so it's fine - there's no excuse there."

Pressed further, the 15-time grand slam champion replied: "A few days ago it just got really tight and I had no rotation on it. I went for this drop shot in the second set today and it just locked up on me.

"It was a little painful, and I couldn't really rotate after that, which I guess is normal. But it's okay. It was what it was."

Williams admitted it had been a tough two weeks, having also rolled her ankle in round one and hitting herself in the mouth with her racquet in the second round.

"I've had a tough two weeks between the ankle and my back - a lot of stuff," she said.

"I'm almost relieved that it's over because there's only so much I felt I could do."

Williams will remain third in the WTA rankings after failing to reach the final but the 31-year-old insisted that was of no consequence to her.

"I'm trying for grand slams and to win titles, you know, get to 50 titles," she said.

"Number one is awesome if I get it. Like I said, I think I'll get there one day. If not, I've had it, so it is what it is.

"But, for me, it's definitely more about doing well in tournaments."

Stephens is the first American teenager to reach the semi-finals of a grand slam since Williams achieved the feat at the 2001 US Open.

She is also the first American teen other than the Williams sisters to reach the last four of a major since Alexandra Stevenson at Wimbledon in 1999.

Stephens, who had posters of Williams on her wall growing up, was still in shock after producing the finest performance of her career.

"Yeah, I don't know how I feel ... It's still strange," she said.

"I talked to my grandparents after. My grandma was just like: 'Oh, good job'.

"I listened to them and they calmed me down a little bit, so it was good."

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