The 18-year-old Floridian, who reached a career-high ranking of No. 89 last fall, moved into the second round of the Australian Open on Tuesday with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Silvia Soler-Espinosa, of Spain.
Four other American women are also through to the second round – Serena Williams, Christina McHale, Vania King and Jamie Hampton, a qualifier ranked No. 144 who had won only one WTA-level match coming into the Australian Open.
“When (the Williams sisters) stop playing tennis, there’ll be someone else to take their spot,” said Stephens, who also reached the third round of the U.S. Open last year. “You’re kind of like searching for someone to be there right now and I don’t think that’s going to happen. But there’s a lot of us, so who knows who could break through.”
FINALLY FIT: Maria Sharapova said it felt like “forever” since she last played a match without pain.
Finally recovered from a left ankle injury she sustained in September, the Russian reeled off the first eight games in a 6-0, 6-1 blowout of Gisela Dulko.
“I couldn’t wait to start,” the 2008 Australian Open champion said. “It’s just nice to go into a match you know that you’re going to compete again at such a high level in front of so many people, especially a place where I’ve won before.”
Sharapova said the ankle, which forced her to pull out of a planned tuneup event in Brisbane, was no longer troubling her.
BROTHERLY LOVE: Rift? What rift?
Andy Roddick believes that talk of tension between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer has been completely overblown.
Earlier this week, Nadal criticized Federer in the Spanish media for not doing enough to push the players’ demands for changes to the men’s game, allowing others to “burn themselves” to make conditions better for everybody.
“Those guys have been the model of a respectful rivalry in sports, so for it to be represented any differently is unfortunate,” Roddick said Tuesday after his first-round win at the Australian Open.
“I think this is all new territory for us. I think, if anything, it probably taught us that we have to choose our words very wisely right now when talking about it because it is a sensitive issue.”