The mentor will take on the mentored when Serena Williams faces Sloane Stephens in the quarter- finals of the Australian Open here tomorrow. The 15-times Grand Slam champion has taken her fellow black American under her wing in recent years. Williams won in straight sets when they met in competition for the first time in Brisbane earlier this month.
Stephens, who beat Laura Robson in the third round, advanced to her first Grand Slam quarter-final with a 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 victory yesterday over Serbia's Bojana Jovanovski. Williams, who is the favourite to win the title, enjoyed a smoother passage, beating Russia's Maria Kirilenko 6-2, 6-0 in just 57 minutes.
Williams was asked whether it was correct to describe her as a mentor to 19-year-old Stephens. "I don't know," Williams said. "I would need a better definition of the word 'mentor'. I just feel like being the older one. Maybe some of the younger players look up to me. It's interesting. It's hard to be a real mentor when you're still in competition, so I think it's a little bit of everything."
Did she feel any responsibility towards Stephens? "No. I feel no responsibility. I doubt she has any expectations of me to be responsible for anything. Maybe she does. I don't know."
Williams said she had first noticed Stephens four years ago. "I saw her in the locker room," Williams said. "She was another black girl. I was like: 'Hey!' That's when I first noticed her. 'What up, girl?'
"I feel like for me it will be another good match and a good opportunity for both of us."