Former world No. 3 Sloane Stephens reveals she and Victoria Azarenka had “crazy beef for a long time” before moving past it and clearing the air between them.
Stephens, 30, made her first Grand Slam semifinal at the 2013 Australian Open. In her first Grand Slam semifinal, Stephens clashed against Azarenka, who at the time was the defending Australian Open champion.
While Azarenka won that match 6-1 6-4, she faced some criticism and backlash as some thought the Belarusian took two timeouts in critical moments to throw Stephens off her game. Afterward in the press, the majority of Azarenka’s press conference was centered around that issue.
“Oh, this match was a situation. Was a total situation. We had crazy beef for like a long time, like a long time. Since resolved,” Stephens said on Australian Open’s Cinema Sessions.
“Like, what’s so crazy is that the first-ever professional player that like gave me a chance and an opportunity to hit with them was Vika. I was like 15, and they had come up to Saddlebrook, and I practiced with her for two days, and it was like the best experience ever.”
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What Azarenka said about the Stephens incident last year?
In 2023, Azarenka made her first Australian Open semifinal since the infamous incident with Stephens. After clinching a semifinal spot at the 2023 Australian Open, 34-year-old Sabalenka said that it “took me 10 years” to get over the criticism and backlash she faced after the 2013 match versus Stephens.
“It was one of the worst things that I’ve ever gone through in my professional career, the way I was treated after that moment, the way I had to explain myself until 10:30 pm at night because people didn’t want to believe me,” Azarenka said last year.
Since the 2013 Australian Open match, Stephens and Azarenka have played against each other eight more times, with the Belarusian owning a 5-4 head-to-head against the American.