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Stephens: ‘Disrespectful’ comment about Serena Williams meant as joke

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Sloane Stephens acquitted herself well in a 6-4, 6-3 loss to Serena Williams in the Brisbane International quarterfinals Thursday. Stephens, 19, came out guns blazing, up to the challenge of playing her friend and idol. Her explosive movement was exceptional as she covered the court from left to right and repeatedly sent near-winners back with interest, forcing Williams to hit that extra ball. And that extra ball. And that extra ball.

Williams’ frustration mounted as the match went on. She was unable to get a sniff on Stephens’ serve. In fact, Stephens repeatedly found herself 0-30 on Williams’ serve, only for Williams to buckle down and ace her way out of it. Stephens’ pressure clearly had an effect. As early as 3-3 in the first set, Williams was urging herself on, screaming “Come on!” and berating herself for errors.

In the end Williams only needed one break point, which happened to be a set point, which she converted to take the first set 6-4. After a lengthy discussion with her coach, David Nainkin USTA coach Troy Han, Stephens joked about Williams’ “come ons,” saying they were “a little disrespectful.”

Much has been made over whether Stephens was earnest in her critique. Personally, having been at press conferences and interviews with Stephens, I just don’t buy into any argument that she was taking a dig at Williams in any meaningful way. The comment came at the end of a coaching timeout. Stephens said it was a joke meant to alleviate her disappointment and frustration from losing the set. As reported by Tennis.com, Stephens said it was just a bit of “friendly fire” amongst friends.

“That’s something that him and I joke about a lot,” Stephens said. “It was kind of just to ease the tension a little bit. I mean, I don’t know what I looked like on the court, but I felt like I looked like a sour lemon, so I was like, Ah, I need to relax. No, it was just a joke. All fun.”

One of the most refreshing things about Stephens has been her irreverence when it comes to discussing her own career — of which she can be scathingly self-deprecating — and when discussing others. Tennis fans and pundits yearn for a player as open and witty yet are just as willing to criticize them for their honesty, or in this case, their sarcasm. Let’s take a moment to fight the backlash. What matters most is that Stephens played a tremendous match that showed her potential and got us excited about the future of American tennis. Let that be the legacy of the night.

(h/t to The Changeover for capturing the video).

  • Published On Jan 03, 2013
  • 13 comments
    GORAVENSGO
    GORAVENSGO

    TALK.................RAVENS...................

    JohnG2
    JohnG2

    It's part of the game and competition. It's always been done. Something the girl will just have to learn to ignore if she has a shot at making it big. 

    Penny1
    Penny1

    I don't know whether Sloane meant anything with her comments or not, but Serena screaming "come on" between shots is nerve wracking. And I think it's meant to be, as a way to unsettle her opponent as much as to bolster herself. Djokovic does the same thing, and so do a few other players. I think it's part of the whole stare-down-your-opponent demeanor, and part of the psych-out. I don't like it much, but I hate the screeching during serve a WHOLE lot more, (Azarenka, and others...)

    Stephen31
    Stephen31

    Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but it is silly to report on a non-story like this and then, in the same piece, state that we should essentially set aside this nonsense and let the match itself be 'the legacy of the night'.  If self-righteous reporters truly believe that an incident like this should not be the talking point, they shouldn't thrust it under the media spotlight.

    stabmasterarson21
    stabmasterarson21

    Don't see a problem, only a doofus would.  We're going to nitpick about every little thing now???

    baa1978
    baa1978

    Soloane is trying to make news for herself, shame on her.

    jblues1969
    jblues1969

    "Williams’ frustration mounted as the match went on. She was unable to get a sniff on Stephens’ serve. In fact, Stephens repeatedly found herself 0-30 on Williams’ serve, only for Williams to buckle down and ace her way out of it. "

     

    Those sentences make no sense whatsoever.

    baa1978
    baa1978

    Soloane is a sore loser!

    dre
    dre

     

    Yeah it may be a joke, but sometimes when a camera is on your face, you got to learn how to keep your mouth close.  If Serena is your idol as she has claimed, then she would know that Serena has be yelling come on to boost herself up every time she plays.  That is her encouragement to herself when she is doing better after some lacking points.  It’s great that Sloan came back and clean up what she meant, but in all, it's better to keep your mouth close especially if a camera is pointing right at you.  It’s good if it was just her coach and no camera was angle on her face, but it was.  She is a young woman that has a lot of growing to do.  If this is your friend or idol, I know I would know them well and know the things that do especially yelling "come on" which Serena among others do ALL THE TIME!!!! 

     

    Other than that, Sloan played a great game.  She was hitting the ball well.  Great match in all!!!!!  

     

    From Serena biggest biggest fan........

    amoeba2315
    amoeba2315

     @baa1978  actually they asked her the questions she didnt bring it up herself so how is she making news? Her play did enough talking.

    harvey
    harvey

     @dre okay, so it was wrong of Sloan to dis Serena but totally alright for Serena to do the same to Sloan?  Maybe she should have kept HER mouth shut during the match as well ... but then again when you have the biggest biggest fan talking, the world should just listen, right Dre?