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19-Year-Old Local Tennis Pro Knocks Off Serena At Aussie Open

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Sloane Stephens

Sloane Stephens of the US hits a return against Serena Williams of the US during their women’s singles match on day ten of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 23, 2013. (Photo credit by: WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)

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CORAL SPRINGS (CBSMiami) – Sloane Stephens, 19, pulled off an upset for the ages at the 2013 Australian Open Wednesday when she beat the third-ranked female tennis player in the world, Serena Williams.

Stephens, of Coral Springs, simply outplayed Williams, who had been dealing with a back injury, during their match Wednesday. Stephens beat the 15-time Grand Slam champion, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. It was the first time Williams had lost since August 17 and her first loss at a Grand Slam since last year’s French Open.

For Stephens, the win got her into the first Grand Slam semifinal of her career.

“I was stretching, and I was like, ‘I’m in the semis of a Grand Slam.’ I was like, ‘Whoa. It wasn’t as hard as I thought,’” she said. “To be in the semis of a Grand Slam is definitely a good accomplishment. A lot of hard work.”

You could say winning is in her DNA.

Stephens’ father John Stephens played in the NFL for the New England Patriots before he was killed in a car crash in 2009.

Her mother Sybil Smith was a champion swimmer at Boston University

It has been a long journey for the tennis phenom.

CBS4′s Joan Murray spoke to the man who coached Stephens extensively when she was growing up in Broward County.

Nick Saviano who is considered one of the leading tennis coaching educators in the world, started coaching Stephens when she was 11 years old at the Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation.

“I always knew, barring injury, she’d be great.  But she has a shot at being number one,” said Saviano.

Saviano remembers hours and hours of practice on the court. He said she’s a player you show something once and she processes it and makes it her own.

He said he saw Stephens through many ups and downs on the court.

“There were times when her mother wondered if she had made the right decision, but she made it through,” said Saviano.

Saviano says Stephens’ natural athleticism give her a clear advantage and that her charm will take her far.

And no one could be happier than her friend and doubles partner Mallory Burdette.

“She is just a lot of fun.  She’ll talk to anyone, a real sweetheart,” said Burdette. ” That makes her special.”

The task doesn’t get any easier for Stephens in her next match when she plays defending Australian Open champion, and number one ranked Victoria Azarenka.

Stephens was seeded 29th in the Australian Open and beat Williams who lost only four matches in 2012.

“I’ve had a tough two weeks between the ankle … and my back, which started hurting,” Williams said. “A lot of stuff.”

For Stephens, the win was also a victory over her tennis idol. Stephens said she had a picture of Williams in her room when she was a kid and had long admired the Williams sisters.

“This is so crazy. Oh my goodness,” Stephens said, wiping away tears in her post-match TV interview. “I think I’ll put a poster of myself (up) now.”

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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