MELBOURNE, Australia — Which was better: Richard Sherman going off on Michael Crabtree on live TV or Sloane Stephens smacking a ball right at Victoria Azarenka in their fourth-round match at the Australian Open? Things got a little bit physical between Azarenka and Stephens, with the pair exchanging shots at the body early in the match. Azarenka won the match 6-3, 6-2, but it was Stephens who landed the first (and only) body blow.
When Azarenka served at 4-2 in the first set, Stephens was forced to run down a short drop shot as Azarenka came to the net. Stephens went cross court with a scooping backhand and nailed Azarenka right in the pelvic area, causing the men in the press room let out loud cries of pain while watching the replay. Yes, Stephens got her there.
“I thought she was going to move and she didn’t,” Stephens said after the match. “I don’t know what was happening, but didn’t think that would ever happen.”
Stephens quickly apologized and looked genuinely embarrassed. Azarenka probably didn’t see the apology. She was too busy wincing and marching off for the next point. “I’m just focused on the next point,” Azarenka said after the match. “Maybe she had an open court, but she chose that shot. I have no problem with that. I’m just focused on the next one.”
Thanks to the quick work by the folks at @AustralianOpen, you can see Stephens land her shot below.
Two points later it was Azarenka’s turn to send a message. Again drawing Stephens to the net, Azarenka fired a backhand volley directed right at Stephens’ head. She ducked out of the way, Azarenka didn’t offer an apology for the shot, and Stephens gave Azarenka a racket clap (a sarcastic one, perhaps) and a broad smile.
Who says women’s tennis is boring?