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Sloane Stephens: first-time Grand Slam semifinalist

At just 19 years of age, the youngest of the women’s top 40 Sloane Stephens has upset her idol and Grand Slam champion Serena Williams to advance into the Australian Open semifinals.

Sloane Stephens. Credit: mannyhardy/Instagram

Prior to the Australian Open 2013, Stephens had not progressed further than the fourth round of a Grand Slam event; her greatest achievement on the professional circuit having been reaching the fourth round at the French Open in 2012, losing only to Australia’s Sam Stosur in a relatively close clash resulting in 7-5 6-4.

Following the 19-year-old’s commendable successful run in the Happy Slam early this year, Stephens’ WTA ranking of 25 will climb well within the top 20 bracket.

Standing in her way of the grand final is Victoria Azarenka who will be resolute in defending her Australian Open title on Thursday afternoon.

With reasonably solid service game statistics under her belt, holding serve may be Stephens’ first port of call in taking on the current world No. 1.

This would allow the American to maintain her offensive approach where she feels more comfortable rather than her having find herself down a break and being forced to lift her defensive game in order to attempt to gain a break back.

The Belrusian has only lost a single set during the tournament thus far and has proven her resilience under pressure following an unsettling start to her quarterfinal match against her unseeded determined Russian opponent Svetlana Kuznetsova who had an admirable 4-1 hold on the world No. 1 in the first set.

Stephens will need to enter the match with optimal confidence levels in her own game and offer much variety in her groundstrokes to prevent Azarenka from continuously unleashing her damaging, heavy drives from the baseline.

Prediction: Azarenka prevails in two sets.

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