Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Stephens Ousts Venus Williams in French Open

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Stephens Ousts Venus Williams in French Open

Article excerpt

PARIS * A loss by Venus Williams in the first round at a Grand Slam is no longer the rarity it once was.

And, as it happens, the woman who beat Williams at the French Open on Tuesday, Sloane Stephens, is making a concerted effort, at her coach's behest, to focus less on who is on the other side of the net.

Still, it was hard not to see the 22-year-old Stephens' 7-6 (5), 6-1 dismissal of seven-time major champion Williams, who at 34 was the oldest woman in the field, as a statement about the directions their respective careers are heading.

For the 15th-seeded Williams, it was her second opening defeat in three years at Roland Garros.

It also was the fifth time in the last 13 Grand Slam tournaments she's entered that she exited in the first round. Before that stretch, it happened once in 37 majors.

Williams didn't show up for a news conference, meaning she could face a fine. Instead, she issued a five-sentence statement that read in part: "When you arrive at any tournament, you hope you will have a chance to work your way into the event, but I didn't have that opportunity she just played better than me today."

That is true.

The 40th-ranked Stephens, who has reached the French Open's fourth round the last three years, was consistently strong from the baseline, making only 14 unforced errors to Williams' 30.

"I want her to play with a sense of joy ... and play everything as well as she can, relentlessly, and not be concerned with the result. Let the result take care of itself. And she did a good job of that today," said Stephens' coach, Nick Saviano.

"I have noticed that missing. ... For any athlete, in any sport, at any high level, they must have that passion and the joy to perform," Saviano explained. "Otherwise, it becomes onerous. It becomes too much of a job, so to speak."

The biggest victory of Stephens' career came at the 2013 Australian Open, when she defeated Williams' younger sister Serena en route to the semifinals.

This was the first time Stephens had faced Venus Williams, other than beating her in an exhibition as a teen.

"But," Stephens said, "I don't think that really counts."

Now Stephens joins Lindsay Davenport as the only Americans to have beaten each Williams at a Grand Slam tournament. …

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