MELBOURNE, Australia — 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.
Today, 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 today 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.”