• Australian Open, What They Said, Day 10

Serena laments 'worst two weeks'

ESPN staff
January 23, 2013

Serena Williams crashed out to Sloane Stephens and described her Australian Open adventure as the worst two weeks of her grand slam career. She said: "I've had a tough two weeks between the ankle, which is like this big every day, and my back, which started hurting. A lot of stuff, so. It was what it was. For a grand slam, absolutely (the worst two weeks). Oh, my gosh, I'm almost relieved that it's over because there's only so much I felt I could do. I was unaware the microphones picked that up. But, oh my gosh, it's been a little difficult. I've been thrown a lot of balls these two weeks."

Williams was hampered by a back injury but refused to forward that as an excuse, saying: "It's fine. You know, just nothing. I think everyone at this stage in the locker room has something wrong with them, so it's fine. There's no excuse there. A few days ago it just got really tight and I had no rotation on it. I went for this dropshot in the second set and it just locked up on me. I couldn't really rotate after that, which I guess is normal. I don't know."

Sloane Stephens went into her match with Williams convinced she could topple her idol. She said: "Last night I was thinking about it . Then this morning when I got up, I was like, 'look, dude, like, you can do this. Like, go out and play and do your best.' I think I was convinced that I was able to do it when I lost serve in the first game in the second set and I went down 2-0. I was like 'this is not the way you want it to happen. But you just fight and just get every ball back, run every ball down, and just get a lot of balls in play, I think you'll be okay.' From then on I got aggressive, started coming to the net more, and just got a lot more comfortable. I just kind of played my game from there, I think."

Reflecting on Williams' racket-smashing antics, Stephens said: "I''ve seen her do it before. But this is tennis; it happens. Sometimes you just get frustrated and things like that happen. But obviously it's a tough situation. You're playing a close match and it happened. But she's still going to play no matter what, smashed rackets, no smashed rackets. You're playing Serena, one of the best competitors in the world. She might smash a racket, but she's still going to play hard. It was definitely like 'wow, that just happened. Okay, now you even have to play harder because she's going to be firing.'"

Victoria Azarenka showed tremendous fighting spirit to overcome Svetlana Kuznetsova and was thrilled with how she kept digging in. She said: "I think we were both producing good tennis. But I felt like she was a little bit on top of me on the important moments. Then I turned it around and I took control in my hands and it was more up to me. I felt like was a turning point mentally and physically. I think you cannot expect to have your best tennis on every single point, on every single game. But it's important to know that when you need it, it's there and you can rely on it. That's what gives you confidence."

Svetlana Kuznetsova will take the positives from her run to the quarter-finals but knows there are areas to work on. She said: "I feel like I have the game. I can play. But I feel I need to improve my fitness, my consistency, the serve. I had to play with a top player, one of the best players at the moment. These matches, you have got to play very consistent. This is what for the moment kills me after my break, is my consistency. And I didn't serve well. That's why I lost the match."

Andy Murray advanced with a straight sets win over Jeremy Chardy to join fellow top four seeds Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer in the semi-finals. He feels the top players are likely to progress due to the five-set format. He said: "I think the five-set matches are probably a good reason for that. The longer the match goes on, someone like a Ferrer, for example, his game is so solid all the time, that to beat him over five sets … yesterday was a perfect example of that. Almagro probably should have won the match. For two, two and a half sets he was the better player, but you need to be the better player for three out of five. There are way more upsets in tournaments that are best of three sets in the men's just because you get off to a bad start and guys can get a quick win over you; whereas over best of five it often takes five hours sometimes to beat the top players in the world."

Jeremy Chardy was overwhelmed by Andy Murray and felt the Brit was simply too good. He said: " I think I didn't play bad today. I played a good match, but he was too good for me. I had a chance and I thought I tried many things, but there was no chance for me. He was too good. I played a good tournament, so I'm still happy. But it's tough to lose with no solution."

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