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Williams, Stephens set up all-American quarterfinal Down Under

January 21, 2013 05:11 AM
Serena Williams would assume the No. 1 ranking with a tournament title at the Australian Open.
Rising young American Sloane Stephens will be playing in her first career Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Serena Williams continued her run toward a third consecutive major title, beating Maria Kirilenko, 6-2, 6-0, on Monday at the Australian Open to set up an all-American quarterfinal with rising star Sloane Stephens.

Williams has lost only one match since her first-round exit at the French Open last year. Since then, she has won Wimbledon, Olympic gold, the US Open, the season-ending WTA championships and the Brisbane International title.

Her 57-minute win over Kirilenko extended her current winning streak to 20 matches.


"I didn't expect to come out and play so well tonight,'' Williams said. "I was like 'Wow!' I saw I had 95 percent first serves in the first set. I said 'Who is this girl?' It's not me usually.''

The 31-year-old can become the oldest woman to hold the world No. 1-ranking by winning her sixth Australian Open title. She next plays the 19-year-old Stephens, who reached the quarterfinals at a major for the first time with a 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 win earlier Monday over Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia.

After five breaks of serve in the third set, Stephens broke Jovanovski and then held to advance -- knowing her parents and grandparents were watching on TV.

"I'm sure my mother's had like four heart attacks,'' Stephens joked after the see-saw match. "I hope my Grandpa didn't have to put my Grandma to bed, because she gets a little worried.''

Williams, who has rated Stephens a potential world No. 1, beat the 19-year-old American in straight sets two weeks ago at the Brisbane International, one of the warm-up tournaments for the Australian Open. Stephens is looking forward to a rematch, where there won't be any major surprises.

"It will be tough, obviously ... it's quarters of a Grand Slam,'' she said. "There won't be that like first time, 'Oh, my God, I'm playing Serena'. That's kind of out of the window now. So that's good. And then it will feel more of like a regular match instead of all the other like things to think about.''

Also winning yesterday was No. 1 seed Victoria Azarenka, who defeated Elena Vesnina, 6-1, 6-1. 

Azarenka started last season with a 26-match winning streak, including a lopsided victory over Maria Sharapova in the Australian Open final. She moved to No. 1 in the rankings with that win and has remained there for all but a few weeks ever since.

But she needs to defend her Australian title to prevent French Open champion Sharapova or Williams from claiming No. 1. 

Next up for Azarenka is a quarterfinal against Svetlana Kuznetsova, who entered the season's first major ranked No. 75 but has won titles at the 2004 US Open and 2009 French Open. Kuznetsova on Monday posted a 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 win over former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki.

In men's action, Roger Federer and Andy Murray stayed on course to face each other in the semifinals.

The third-seeded Murray easily beat Gilles Simon of France, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3, on Monday for his fourth straight-sets win in a row. He will play unseeded Frenchman Jeremy Chardy in the quarterfinals. Chardy followed his upset of 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over another highly ranked player, No. 21 Andreas Seppi, in the fourth round.

The second-seeded Federer defeated a second straight up-amd-comer, topping 22-year-old  Milos Raonic of Canada, the No. 13 seed,  6-4, 7-6(2), 6-2. Federer previously defeated 20-year-old Bernard Tomic in the third round. Federer next plays No. 7 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who defeated fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, in the fourth round.
Information from The Associated Press was used in compiling this report.


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