Just moments after the 19-year-old from Florida shook hands with Williams, she did what many teenagers do best, picked up her cell phone to check for text messages and Facebook updates. According to a report from USA Today, Stephens told ESPN’s Pam Shriver that she had 145 messages on her cell phone and hoped “to have a lot more twitter followers.” Indeed, within an hour, she added more than 18,000 new Twitter followers and overnight, the figure soared to nearly 50,000 total. If she goes on to beat top seeded Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals, her celebrity status on social media will skyrocket.
After the quarterfinal match, well known celebrities and athletes took to Twitter to congratulate Sloane Stephens for her monumental victory over Serena Williams, unquestionably one of the greatest woman tennis athletes ever.
Among the best tweets:
Dallas Maverick star and former MVP Dirk Nowitzski: “Wow. What a win for sloane. Some amazing defense. She gets every ball back.”
Singer John Legend “Just found out her dad is John Stephens from the Pats. (that’s my real name) I had his football card when I was a kid. I was so proud, ha ha”
Shaquille O’Neal “congrats on a great match. Excellent focus n poise. Keep it goin. When u defeat a legend you become a legend. Keep it going”
Coming into the 2013 Australian Open, Stephens was the number 29 seed in the tournament and had never made it past the fourth round of a grand slam tennis event. However she easily dispatched her opponents in the first three rounds to set up her pivotal match against the 31-year-old Serena Williams, the winner of a 20 match winning streak and current Wimbledon, Olympic U.S. Open and WTA champion. For her career, Williams has earned 15 grand slam singles title, including a record five at the Australian Open.
Williams hurt her back in the second set of the match, which forced her to request medical assistance. After the delay, Stephens seemed to gain more confidence, by taking the set and with momentum entering the third. In the third and final set, Williams grew even more frustrated when she smashed her tennis racquet to on the court, which served as a reminder for some of her other angry outbursts in the recent past, particularly when she yelled at a line judge at the 2009 U.S. Open, saying “I would kill you!”
Yet Williams briefly had the third set (and a victory) in control by breaking Stephens’ serve to go up in the match only to lose her own serve the following game and eventually the match.
Regardless of how Sloane Stephens does against Victoria Azarenka, tennis fans across the globe took notice of a young tennis player from a country that is sorely lacking promising new stars. The last time an American male tennis player won a grand slam event was 10 years ago, when Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick won the Australian Open and the U.S. Open respectively. Both have since retired from the game and there isn’t an American male ranked I the current top 10.
If however, Stephens does move on to the finals of the Australian Open, the American teenager’s presence on centre court, not only will it bode well her country’s tennis program, it will also gain her a lot more fans on social media.