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Serena still "tennis queen" of the hill

9/5/2013, 9 a.m.

There I was this past weekend flipping through the channels looking for some competitive sports to watch on TV and before I knew it I had hit the jackpot. Lucky me got to watch Serena Williams deliver a stern message on Sunday afternoon at the U.S. Open in New York City, after crushing American newbie Sloane Stephens 6-4, 6-1 in their fourth round match. The message was ” I am still the Queen of this hill.”  Stephens, as you may have heard has been highly touted as the next great hope for American tennis, which has been dominated by the Williams sisters with no others stepping up to challenge them in a good decade or so. It may have been premature hype for Stephens, 20, who thrilled American tennis fans by defeating an injured Serena in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, like she did in January. After that win, Stephens popularity went through the roof, and everybody wanted a piece of the “next big thing” as media requests soared. It was a bit much though asking her to do it again, to beat Serena on her turf, at Arthur Ashe Stadium, where she was won four U.S. Open titles. A motivated Serena Williams is a scary proposition for any opponent on the tennis court.

Williams and Stephens have had minor tiffs so far  this year. Stephens did not appreciate Williams’ grunting and fist-bumping during a match in Brisbane back in January, which Williams won. At the press conference after Stephens beat Williams in Australia, Williams referred to Stephens as “my opponent” and called her a “good player” but did not go out of her way to praise her. Stephens calls such tactics mind games and they very well may be. One thing is very clear after this latest meeting, Stephens may be the future but Serena is very much the present. Still. In a recent interview Stephens talked about how the Williams sisters refused to sign an autograph for her at a tournament in Florida, when Stephens was 12. She also said Serena unfollowed her on Twitter, and refused to talk to her after Stephens beat her in Australia. If you don't know by now: that's just who Serena is, she isn't trying to be pals when she is battling on the court. She is ultra competitive which is a trait most of the greats share. After the match this past weekend, Serena took the highest road. “How excited are you for the future of American tennis?” she said during an on-court interview, giving Stephens her props. The crowd roared. I think they were saying in unision, keep trying Sloane Stephens, right now this house still belongs to Serena. No further questions, your hono.