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Stephens Stuns Serena at Australian Open

January 23, 2013 - World TeamTennis (WTT) - Washington Kastles News Release

Washington Kastles original player Serena Williams fell short of a sixth Australian Open championship on Wednesday, losing in the quarterfinals to 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.

Serena entered her encounter with Stephens on quite the roll, winning 20 consecutive matches, sweeping 28 straight sets and blasting a pair of aces in Melbourne that measured in at 207 kilometers per hour (128.6 mph).

The No. 3 seed finished with 22 winners and six unforced errors in a 6-2, 6-0 rout of No. 14 seed Maria Kirilenko in the fourth round. Two days later against Stephens, she hit 23 winners but committed 48 unforced errors.

A bout with back spasms and the strength of Stephens' strokes proved too much for Serena to overcome. Stephens played at Kastles Stadium twice as a 16-year-old sensation with the New York Buzz in 2009, which is when Serena told reporters that she first took notice her countrywoman.

In her Grand Slam semifinal debut, the 29th-seeded Stephens meets another Mylan WTT alum in No. 1 seed Victoria Azarenka, who represented the Kastles for four matches in 2010. The other semifinal pits No. 6 seed Na Li against No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova, who eliminated Venus Williams 6-1, 6-3 in the third round.

Serena could have become the World No. 1 by reaching the Australian Open final, but she still has an outside shot of moving to the top. If Sharapova loses to Li and Azarenka does not win the title, Serena will reclaim the No. 1 ranking for the first time since Oct. 10, 2010.

Less than 24 hours before being defeated by Stephens in the singles quarterfinals, Serena lost in the doubles quarterfinals with Venus for just the second time in their last 32 matches at the Australian Open.

Each Williams sister served for a semifinal spot, but they couldn't put away the top-ranked team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, who avenged a lopsided loss at the Olympics with a 3-6, 7-6(1), 7-5 victory.

Thus ended a disappointing doubles campaign down under for Washington, with Anastasia Rodionova the only Kastle not named Williams to win more than one match. She and Cara Black built on their season-opening title in Auckland by reaching the third round before falling to No. 7 seeds Nuria Llagostera Vives and Jie Zheng.

Defending men's doubles champions Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek were upset in the first round, and Paes' tournament ended Tuesday with a second-round loss in mixed doubles.

But the charismatic Kastle found a way to win over the fans at Rod Laver Arena after his mixed partner Elena Vesnina incidentally struck him with a backhand.

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