Sloane Stephens' run through the Australian Open came to an end Thursday, as the tournament's top seed, Victoria Azarenka, won the semifinal match in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4. Azarenka will face No. 6 Na Li, who defeated Maria Sharapova earlier on Thursday, in the final on Saturday.
Stephens, the tournament's No. 29 seed, dropped the first set in only 33 minutes, as Azarenka came out firing on all cylinders. The second set, however, took more than twice as long at 68 minutes, as Stephens found her footing and comfort zone, testing Azarenka in every game with the same steely calm that carried the 19-year-old to her upset of Serena Williams in the quarterfinals. The win over her sports hero put Stephens into the mainstream public's consciousness.
During the hotly contested second set, Azarenka took a 10-minute injury timeout, causing what could have been construed as a break in the match's pressure-packed rhythm, but Stephens downplayed its importance after the match, squelching potential controversy.