Fighting like a tiger, Sloane Stephens belied her age and inexperience on the big stage and took the Australian Open women’s second semi-final right up to her opponent, the world number one ranked player and reigning champion, Victoria Azarenka.
While she fell short, there are some good signs for Stephens in 2013.
Ranked as high as 36 in late 2012, Stephens has rose to 25th in the world in mid-January.
The 19-year-old American will now jump into the WTA Top 20 as a result of reaching the semi final stage of the first Grand Slam event.
But more than the ranking boost and the obvious monetary gain for this youngster. She has made an impression on the avid supporters of tennis who follow the Australian Open each year, and world tennis as a whole.
She was already building a solid reputation on the tennis court, not as a singles player but as a doubles specialist. She won the junior US Open, Wimbledon and French Open doubles.
There is no doubt she has now gained an army of fans who will follow her career with great interest and enthusiasm over the coming years.
As a final word, it should be noted how refreshing it was to see Sloane’s absolute surprised and joyful expression upon winning her quarter final match against her own tennis hero and champion player Serena Williams.
Such natural delight and appreciation of a goal and a dream achieved is a rare sight in the modern professional sports era.