MELBOURNE, Australia - Serena Williams' dominating run at the majors is over. American teenager Sloane Stephens is headed to the semifinals of the Australian Open.
Williams hurt her back in the eighth game of the second set, hampering her serve. She had treatment and recovered well enough to give herself a shot at winning the match, but the 19-year-old Stephens kept her composure in a 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory today.
It was the first loss since Aug. 17 for the 15-time Grand Slam winner, ending a run of 20 consecutive wins. She hadn't lost a match at a Grand Slam tournament since the French Open, where her first-round exit sparked a resurgence in the second half of 2012 that included titles at Wimbledon, the London Olympics, the U.S. Open and the WTA Championship.
After winning her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, Stephens next plays defending champion Victoria Azarenka, who beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 6-1 in the earlier quarterfinal match at Rod Laver Arena.
Williams walked around the net to congratulate Stephens, who then clapped her hand on her racket and waved to the crowd, a look of disbelief on her face.
She then went to her tennis bag, pulled out her phone and started checking for text messages from her mother.
"I was hoping she had texted me right away. I thought maybe she was texting me during the match," Stephens said. "I'm sure my grandparents are, like, freaking out.…
"This is so crazy. Oh my goodness."
Williams said of her bad back: "Everyone at this stage in the locker room has something wrong with them. It's no excuse. … It was a little painful, but it's OK."
Azarenka, after dropping serve in a long fourth game that went to deuce 10 times, recovered to dominate the rest of the match against Kuznetsova, a two-time major winner who was floating dangerously in the draw with a No. 75 ranking as she recovers from a knee injury.
On Tuesday, Novak Djokovic earned a 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych, advancing to the semifinals at an 11th consecutive Grand Slam tourney.
"It was a great performance," Djokovic said. "It's always going to be tough against Tomas; he's an established player. He has a big game, big serve. He can compete against anyone on any surface."
In the semifinals, Djokovic will meet No. 4-seeded David Ferrer.
Ferrer survived a quarterfinal battle with fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro. Almagro had three chances to serve for the match, but Ferrer broke each time.
"It was (a) miracle I won this match," Ferrer said of his comeback 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (4), 6-2 win. "I tried to fight every point; that's my game. I always fight."
Ferrer survived once in the third set and twice in the fourth when Almagro was serving for the match but finally advanced to his third semifinal in the last four Grand Slam events.
After Maria Sharapova earned a 6-2, 6-2 quarterfinal win over Ekatrina Makarova, she has conceded only nine games in five matches - a record in Australia.