Sloane Stephens wiped away tears as she thought about hanging a poster of herself on a wall in the place of her childhood hero.
The 19-year-old American seemed to be in shock, barely able to compute how she'd produced the upset of the Australian Open by beating the 15-time major winner in the quarterfinals Wednesday. It was her first trip that far in seven Grand Slam tournaments.
"I think she is going to be the next great American player," said Nick Saviano, who began coaching Stephens when she was 11 years old. "I actually on the first day too the mom aside. I said, 'This one can be a world-class player.' I knew from the beginning."
A poster of Williams had adorned the wall on Stephens' bedroom as a child. Now, in her view, they're peers.
"This is so crazy," Stephens said in a post-match TV interview after rallying from a set and a break down against an injured and angry Williams. "Oh my goodness. I think I'll put a poster of myself (up) now."
The 29th-seeded Stephens won 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. She calmed the nerves and started swinging harder and lifting her tempo at 4-3 in the second.