MELBOURNE, Australia – Sloane Stephens wiped away tears as she thought about hanging a poster of herself on a wall in the place of her childhood hero.
The 19-year-old American seemed to be in shock, barely able to compute how she'd produced the upset of the Australian Open by beating 15-time major winner Serena Williams in the quarterfinals Wednesday. It was her first trip that far in seven Grand Slam tournaments.
A poster of Williams had adorned the wall on Stephens' bedroom as a child. Now, in her view, they're peers.
"This is so crazy," Stephens said in a post-match TV interview after rallying from a set and a break down against an injured and angry Williams. "Oh my goodness. I think I'll put a poster of myself [up] now."
The 29th-seeded Stephens won 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. She calmed the nerves and started swinging harder and lifting her tempo at 4-3 in the second.
That's when Williams jarred her back trying to pull up before the net as she chased down a drop shot. Williams let out a loud scream and hopped away. Stephens had a look back over the net, seemingly in concern.
Stephen's surprise win did instant wonders for her celebrity.
Before the match, Stephens said she had about 17,000 followers on Twitter. A few hours after reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal, she had more than 40,000.
And she sounded like an excited schoolgirl as she gushed about receiving a congratulatory tweet from American singer John Legend.
"I want John Legend to sing at my wedding!" she said. "I was like, 'Oh my God. He tweeted me. What can I do?'"
She re-tweeted the sentiments from Legend: "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. I was so proud, ha ha."
Stephens' father, former New England Patriots player, died in 2009.
She's set for her biggest payday, regardless of the result in Thursday's semifinal against defending champion Victoria Azarenka, who beat two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 6-1 in the previous match in Rod Laver Arena.
The semifinal losers earn $525,000, double what the quarterfinal losers receive. For Williams, there's a further $1,500 deduction after she was fined for racket abuse.