Sloane Stephens run at Australian Open has Family Circle Cup upside

Sloane Stephens of the US hits a backhand return to compatriot Serena Williams during their quarterfinal match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013.(AP Photo/Andrew Brownbill)

Family Circle Cup management was not pulling against the tournament’s defending champion and fan favorite. But Sloane Stephens’ Australian Open quarterfinals upset of Serena Williams on Wednesday is part of a boom in American women’s tennis, and that’s great for the Family Circle Cup.

“I think Sloane is making a major breakthrough,” Family Circle Cup general manager Bob Moran said Wednesday. “If my math is right, she is going to jump at least to No. 15 (in the Women’s Tennis Association rankings).”

The 19-year-old Stephens resides in Plantation, Fla. Currently ranked No. 25, she is seeded No. 29 at the Australian Open, Stephens defeated Williams, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4, and was set to play Thursday night against top seed Victoria Azarenka.

“I’m really excited,” Moran said, pointing out that the WTA top 100 soon probably will include 11 U.S. players. “I can’t tell you how long it’s been since we had 11 Americans in the top 100. I’m thrilled.”

Ten U.S. players are in the top 100: No. 3 Serena Williams, No. 20 Vavara Lepchenko, No. 25 Stephens, No. 26 Venus Williams, No. 35 Christina McHale, No. 63 Jamie Hampton, No. 76 Vania King, No. 81 Lauren Davis, No. 84 Melanie Oudin and No. 99 Coco Vandeweghe.

Madison Keys is No. 103.

Stephens, the daughter of late former NFL running back John Stephens, played at the Family Circle Cup in 2011 and 2012.

Moran hopes Stephens returns for the 2013 Family Circle Cup, set for March 30-April 7 on Daniel Island, but said he will not know for sure until mid-February.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.

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