Sloane Stephens, 22, beats Venus Williams, 34, in first round

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Monday, May 25, 2015

PARIS -- For the second time in three years, Venus Williamslost in the first round at the French Open.

Venus, who was beaten by younger sister Serena in the 2002 final, lost 7-6 (5), 6-1 to the 40th-ranked Sloane Stephens, a 22-year-old up-and-coming American player.

Stephens, who beat Serena at the 2013 Australian Open, has made it to the fourth round in Paris each of the past three years.

At 34, Venus was the oldest player in the draw.

Williams declined to speak to the media after her first-round exit at the French Open.

She is facing a potential fine for skipping the traditional news conference, although she issued a statement in which she said Stephens "just played better than me today.''

Williams added she will now turn her focus to the grass-court season.

"I have a little while now between tournaments and so now I'll just get ready for the grass at Wimbledon,'' she said.

This was the first time Stephens had faced Venus Williams, other than beating her in an exhibition as a teen.

"But,'' Stephens said, "I don't think that really counts.''

Now Stephens joins Lindsay Davenport as the only Americans to have beaten each Williams at a Grand Slam tournament.

Stephens was reserved during her on-court interview, referring to Williams as "someone we all looked up to for so long,'' but hardly celebrating as if this meant a lot to her.

Stephens -- whose late father, John Stephens, was the 1988 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year with the New England Patriots, and whose mother, Sybil Smith, was Boston University's first All-American in women's swimming -- was composed throughout the match, finding the spots for her deep groundstrokes.

She did, however, lose her composure once.

Holding a break point in the second set's second game, Stephens was preparing to receive a serve when the ball hit by Williams startled a pigeon, which flapped its wings and took off. Stephens, in turn, was startled and released a shriek. Instead of an ace, the point was replayed, and Williams flubbed a shot to get broken.

"It was a very dramatic moment, I would say,'' Stephens said with a smile. "First of all, I didn't know what it was. I thought it was way closer to me than it actually was. So that was ... why I screamed so loud.''

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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