"I don't even remember half the stuff that happened," the
20-year-old said when questioned about a possible showdown with
Azarenka after she had beaten Ukraine's Elina Svitolina 7-5 6-4 in
the third round on Saturday. "It's okay.
"Last year has nothing to do with this year. It's a totally
different year. A lot of things have happened.
"So, you know, I'm just looking forward to getting back on the court
... hopefully on the big court. It will be exciting."
Azarenka, who was playing Austria's Yvonne Meusburger later on
Saturday, was accused of at best gamesmanship, at worst cheating,
when she played Stephens in last year's semi-finals at Melbourne
Leading by a set and 5-4, the defending champion had just missed
five match points when she took a 10-minute timeout, leaving her
teenage opponent to sit and wait.
When she returned, the Belarussian broke Stephens to clinch a 6-1
6-4 victory and a place in the final.
As jeers rang out around Rod Laver Arena, Azarenka compounded
matters by making a bizarre courtside speech.
"I almost did the choke of the year," she said. "At 5-3 I had so
many chances but I couldn't close it out. I felt a little bit
overwhelmed that I was close to another final."
Azarenka later explained in a media conference she had misunderstood
the question and had been battling a rib injury that affected her
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Stephens, who had upset Serena Williams in the quarter-finals
to face Azarenka for the place in the final, graciously said she
felt the timeout had not been a factor in her loss.
"Looking back on it I don't think that affected anything too
much, but I definitely know, if I was in the same position,
which I am — obviously not in the semis — but I know what I have
to do.," Stephens said On Saturday.
"I have to play my game and focus on myself and focus on what I
Stephens, still then a teenager, used her Australian Open
experience to launch a breakthrough year on the WTA tour.
She reached the fourth round or better at each of the grand
slams, finished it ranked a career-high 12th and felt her
Australian Open semi-final had proved to be an important lesson.
"Obviously semis of a grand slam it was pretty intense ... it
was definitely a learning experience for me," she said.
"I don't get flustered as easily and (that is) something I have
"I don't get overwhelmed and I'm kind of just learning to focus
on myself, because that's the only thing I can control, like the
things that I do."
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington;
editing by Nick Mulvenney)
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