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Featured Meltdowns

 

Finding Roger Federer Meltdown footage on YouTube is like finding a seat on the Number 4 Lexington Avenue subway at 9:30 in the morning. [Non-New Yorkers, take note: it's rare.] The Greatest of All Time usually deals with blown shots by dragging his middle finger across his forehead and tucking his hair behind his ear. Not this time. This was a semi-final match with Novak Djokovic at the 2009 Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida. Djokovic just broke Fed in the third and deciding set and was up 15-0 when the Greatest of All Time took his eyes off a routine approach shot that could have evened the score. Federer went through lots of racquets when he was playing the junior circuit; wonder if he felt a little wave of nostalgia upon banging this one hard into the court.

On the Sideline

Entries in australian open women's quarterfinals (1)

Tuesday
Jan222013

Australian Open: Williams Ousted by Her Mini-Me

Sloane slides into Australian Open semis, ousting Serena Williams in 3 sets. Courtesy: API had to wipe the drool coming off of my flat screen TV like dew during the all-American quarterfinal at the Australian Open between number 3 seed Serena Williams, and the 19-year-old everyone sees as her heir apparent, the 29th seed Sloane Stephens.  

"The future is here," announced ESPN's Mary Jo Fernandez, following Stephens' upset of the 15-time Grand Slam winner, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.

Serena gets medical treatment for back spasms. "It's no excuse," she told reporters after her loss. Courtesy: AP It helped Sloane's cause that Serena suffered back spasms in the second set after moving forward for a short ball. It hampered her ability to rotate into her serve and her shots. 

Another ESPN commentator, Chris Evert, kept talking about Serena "mentoring" Sloane. It made for a good story line: the mentor versus the mentee.  But Williams has denied playing any role in Stephens' recent rise, from 198th in the world at the end of 2010 to 25th today. 

"I would need a better definition of the word mentor," she said. "I just feel like the older one and maybe some of the younger players look up to me.

"It's hard to be a real mentor when you're still in competition.

"I don't feel any responsibility (towards her). I doubt she has any expectations of me to be responsible for anything. Maybe she does. I don't know."

The two have several qualities in common, besides their nationality, their race and their chosen profession.  Deadspin did a hilarious summary of the media's breathless iterations of all their similarities.  I'll keep the hyperventilating going by saying both are baseline sluggers and both have big serves.  Stephens is good enough to have given Williams a scare when they met in the quarterfinals in Brisbane earlier this month.

Watch the video at around 4:18.  Serena gets to break point for the first set against Sloane and belts out the first of several "C'mon's!" complete with flexed bicep and fist pump.  

This starts getting on Sloane's nerves.  

Which brings up a big distinction between Sloane Stephens and Serena Williams.  Here's one way the teen is NOT like the 31-year-old veteran and all-time great.  She's a fierce competitor without being fierce.

Stephens is unguarded, the very opposite of Williams.  She's not snarky, the way Williams can be, the way Williams was in 2009 when the well-endowed champ sported a T-shirt with the slogan, "Are You Looking At My Titles?" as a subtle protest against her number 2 ranking behind Slam-less Dinara Safina.   

Much has been made of Stephens' perky personality and her poise.  She Tweeted a picture of a hot dog stand at the tournament grounds in Melbourne and offered two tickets to her players' box for the first fan to order a "Sloane Sandwich."

Her reaction to her victory was subdued, just a big smile and a few claps of her hand against her racquet.  No, she did not pull apart her shirt and scream like Novak Djokovic.  She was considerate of her opponent.

"I'm sure she doesn't feel good," Stephens said to ESPN's Pam Shriver after her victory over her idol.  She went on to describe her win as "nice."  

It's more than that.  It's a big deal.  She's the first American teen in a Grand Slam semi-final since a 19-year-old Serena reached the semis at Wimbledon in 2000.