Sloane Stephens moved into the top 20 with her semifinal run in Australia. (Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/Icon SMI)
It had been a long time since a young American made as big a splash as Sloane Stephens did at the Australian Open. Not only did she hand Serena Williams her first career loss to a younger American, but the 19-year-old also became the first U.S. teen to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament since a 19-year-old Serena at the 2001 U.S. Open. This week, Stephens hit another milestone, becoming the first American teenager to make her top-20 debut since Williams in 1998.
Those results, combined with Stephens’ engaging personality and precocious nature, mean that the spotlight is shining a few hundred watts brighter. She’s already done a measured post-tournament media blitz, appearing on CNN and The Ellen Degeneres Show this week.
So how does Stephens compare to some of the other recent breakout American women?
Alexandra Stevenson: One name kept coming up as Stephens made the semifinals in Melbourne, though it was whispered in the dark corners of the Internet rather than bandied about in broad daylight on ESPN. The comparisons between Stevenson and Stephens were easy and useful in keeping expectations in check. Both have famous pro-athlete fathers — Stevenson is the daughter of NBA legend Julius “Dr. J” Erving, while Stephens’ late father, John, was a Pro Bowl running back for the New England Patriots. Both were teens when they made the semifinals at a major, with Stevenson getting to the Wimbledon final four as an 18-year-old qualifier in 1999. Both lost to the eventual champion, Stevenson to Lindsay Davenport and Stephens to Victoria Azarenka.