- (Photograph: Reuters/Toby Melville)
Sloane Stephens defeated one of her inspirations, Serena Williams, in the Australian Open quarterfinals Wednesday and managed to gain a number of new celebrity supporters in the process.
Stephens, 19-year-old Florida native who once had a poster of Williams hanging on her bedroom wall, managed to defeat the 31-year-old four-time U.S. Open and 15-time Grand Slam winner in a match that caught the attention of some high-profile individuals.
Jozy Altidore, soccer forward for the Eredivisie club AZ Alkmaar and the United States national team, took to Twitter to cheer Sloane on before and after her defeat of Williams.
"Team @sloanetweets #AustralianOpen keep it going!! Have fun," Altidore tweeted to the tennis star.
Shaquille O'Neal, NBA All-Star center turned sports analyst, also took to the social networking website to congratulate the budding tennis star. After her defeat of Williams, O'Neal called Stephens a legend.
"Congrats on a great match. Excellent focus and poise," O'Neal tweeted to Stephens. "Keep it going. When you defeat a legend you become a legend. Keep it going."
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks forward, called Stephens' performance amazing.
"Wow. What a win for Sloane," the Mavericks star tweeted. "Some amazing defense. She gets every ball back."
However, professional athletes were not the only people to take notice of Stephens. John Legend, Grammy Award-winning singer, also took notice of Stephens after realizing that he was once a fan of her father who formerly played in the NFL and died in a car accident four years ago.
"Just found out her dad is John Stephens from the Pats. (that's my real name) I had his football card when I was a kid," Legend told his Twitter followers. "I was so proud, ha ha."
Stephens made sure to thank all of her supporters on Twitter by writing, "Thank you so much everyone for your well wishes and support. Still work to be done!"
While Stephens was eventually bested by Victoria Azarenka in the Australian Open Semifinals, the former managed to make a name for herself as the only American younger than Williams to beat the 31-year-old tennis star.