Originally written on Larry Brown Sports  |  Last updated 5/8/13

Serena Williams responded to the criticism she faced from Sloane Stephens by saying she is a big fan of the up-and-coming player. In an interview with ESPN The Magazine, Stephens said her mentor-protege relationship with Williams had been overblown by the media, and that Williams essentially dropped her as a friend after losing to her at the Australian Open in January. Following her second-round match at the Madrid Open on Tuesday, Williams was asked about Stephens’ criticism. “I’m a big Sloane Stephens fan and always have been,” Williams said at a press conference after beating Lourdes Dominguez 6-2, 7-5, per the AFP. “I’ve always said that I think she can be the best in the world. I’ll always continue to think that and always be rooting for her. “I really just always wish her and anyone, really, especially from America the best. We don’t have that many American players, so it’s always exciting to see so many young players doing so well.” Williams certainly was playing nice with Stephens. That might be because the two supposedly spoke and hashed out their problems. Stephens tweeted to that effect: Guilty of being naive. Much respect 4 @serenawilliams , a champ & the GOAT. We spoke, we’re good. ONWARD! #lifelessons — Sloane Stephens (@sloanetweets) May 7, 2013 So Stephens came out roaring like a young lion in the interview, but she really backed off. Maybe she couldn’t handle the negative publicity that came as a result of her comments. H/T Beyond the Baseline

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