By JOCELYN GECKER
2014-01-20 09:22 PM
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- For the record, Sloane Stephens was not cheering in celebration when Serena Williams lost. She was making fun of Ana Ivanovic's coaches.
The 20-year-old American was captured on camera, watching Williams' surprise upset loss in the fourth round of the Australian Open over the weekend. With a big smile, Stephens raised both arms as if to high-five the person next to her.
Or so it seemed to many as the video made the rounds of social media.
On Monday, the matter was raised at Sloane's post-match news conference after she lost her fourth-round match to No. 2 Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 6-2.
"We were just having some fun," said Stephens, denying that she was cheering over Williams' loss.
"At the end of the match, Ivanovic's coaches pretty much gave each other head butts and kisses," said Stephens. "I thought that was the funniest thing ever because I have never seen a more excited head butt-kiss at the end of a match."
She was watching the Sunday match in the players' lounge, seated next to her hitting partner, Andrew Fitzpatrick.
"Andrew and I were like, 'Oh my God.' We were going to do the same thing. We were so excited," she said. "We had a lot of time on our hands obviously."
Effusive and chatty, Stephens has tried to dispel talk about a rumored frosty relationship with the No. 1-ranked Williams, since beating her in the quarterfinals last year in Melbourne.
Stephens' loss Monday marked the departure of the last American man or woman from this year's singles draw. She is seen as one of the rising women's players who could fill a void in American women's tennis once Williams, now 32, retires.
She hasn't won a career title yet but has excelled in big matches on big stages in her breakthrough year in 2013, when she reached the Australian Open semifinals, the fourth round at Roland Garros and the U.S. Open and the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.
She's now working with Roger Federer's former coach, Paul Annacone.
"Unfortunately, I didn't win today," Stephens said. "But there will be others."
TIME VIOLATION: Rafael Nadal is not known as a quick server. He has a pre-serving routine that involves tugging at his shorts, touching his nose, his ears. He bounces the ball several times.
He admits that sometimes it takes too much time. The allotted time limit between points is 20 seconds at Grand Slam tournaments, and 25 seconds on the ATP Tour.
But the No. 1-ranked player was shocked and angered to get a time violation at a crucial point in his fourth-round match against Japan's Kei Nishikori
It was 4-4, deuce in the third set and after the violation from chair umpire Evanthia Asderaki, Nadal lost his serve to give Nishikori the break and allow him to serve for the set.
Nadal regained composure and came back to win the match in three tough sets, 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-6 (3), earning a spot in the quarterfinals.
After the match, Nadal was diplomatic about the time call.
"Sometimes I am too slow, and I accept that," Nadal said. "The negative thing in my opinion is not the warning. The negative thing is the moment, 4-all, deuce. You can choose another moment to do it, not that one."
"I respect the decision of the referee, even if I am not happy about it," Nadal said "I am going to try to go quicker for the future."
Nadal faces No. 22 Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals and could play either No. 4. Andy Murray or No. 6 Roger Federer in the semifinals.
NO COACH: At a tournament marked by old stars-turned-celebrity coaches, Simona Halep stands out as a player without a coach.
The 22-year-old Romanian advanced to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal after beating No. 8 Jelena Jankovic, 6-4, 2-6, 6-0.
Asked whom she discussed her pre-game strategy with, the No. 11-seeded player, replied, "Nobody."
"For the moment I don't have coach," said Halep, who climbed 36 spots in the rankings last year after winning her first six career titles.
The only player to have done better in 2013 was No. 1-ranked Serena Williams, who won 11 titles last year.
Several players have started the new season with new coaches, including Roger Federer who has hired Stefan Edberg, while Novak Djokovic is working with Boris Becker. Japan's Kei Nishikori has teamed up with Michael Chang.
Halep's opponent in the quarterfinals is 20th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova, who staged Monday's biggest upset by beating four-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova.
"I have to be aggressive and (try) to enjoy the quarterfinals, because is the first time in my life," she said. "I just want to be happy there."