Alexandra Winfield Stevenson (born December 15, 1980 in La Jolla, California) is a professional tennis player. She made her professional debut in 1999 at Wimbledon, two weeks following graduation from La Jolla Country Day School. At the Wimbledon Championships, Stevenson became the first woman qualifier in the Tennis Open Era to reach the semi-finals. It was her second time at Wimbledon, having competed the year before in the Junior Wimbledon Championships. In 1999, Stevenson qualified to the quarterfinals at Birmingham, a grass warmup to Wimbledon, before withdrawing to Magüi Serna because of a stomach muscle pull. The next week Stevenson was the number one seed during qualifying at Roehampton—and did not drop a set in three rounds as she moved into the main draw at Wimbledon. Stevenson beat number 8 seed Julie Halard in the third round. In the fourth round, she saved one match point against Lisa Raymond in a 2–6, 7–6, 6–1 win. She then beat Jelena Dokić in three sets in the quarter-finals, before finally being knocked out in her ninth match, in straight sets by the eventual champion, Lindsay Davenport. Stevenson had 57 aces during the fortnight, her serve speed in the 120s. But, it was the beginning of Stevenson being known for the fastest second serve in the women's game. Stevenson's second serve was 105 mph - 115 mph. Stevenson joined Chris Evert and Anna Kournikova as the only women in recent times to reach the semi-finals on their Wimbledon debut. Phil Knight, the co-founder and chairman of Nike, Inc. flew to London to personally sign Stevenson to a three-year Nike contract.
During the months following her dramatic run at Wimbledon, Stevenson was named rookie of the year by Tennis Magazine and named Most Fascinating by People Magazine. She was interviewed by Barbara Walters for a Barbara Walters Special and was featured in a variety of national and international media. Nike, Inc. flew a dozen flags with Stevenson's name in bold print during her first visit to the iconic campus. Stevenson moved from California to train with Nick Bollettieri at IMG Academy from 1999-2002. In 2000 and 2001 Stevenson, often pitted against top 20 players - including Nathalie Tauziat, Mary Pierce, Martina Hingis, Monica Seles, Amanda Coetzer, Lisa Raymond, Dominique Van Roost, Julie Halard, Jennifer Capriati, Serena Williams, and Venus Williams - worked on her aggressive all-court playing style as she found her way in the professional game.
On September 11, 2001, Stevenson lost one of her friends - Manny Del Valle Jr., a fireman in the World Trade Center. Stevenson wrote an article in the New York Times about Del Valle, a driver to the players at the US Open. In 2002, the four Grand Slams allowed Stevenson to wear the patch of DelValle's Engine Company (Engine No. 5) on her NIKE hat. Stevenson reached the quarterfinals at Quebec City in 2001, and the quarterfinals at Linz, defeating Arantxa Sánchez Vicario en route.
But, it was 2002 that lifted Stevenson to No. 18 in the world. Stevenson had played during the European indoor season in 2001 and was the only American player following 9/11 in Moscow. In 2002, prior to the European indoors, she lost to Monica Seles in the Tokyo quarterfinals 7–6(11–9), 7–6(11–9) and there were no breaks of serve until the tiebreakers. Alan Mills, the Tokyo referee and renowned Wimbledon referee proclaimed, "This is the finest women's serving match I have ever seen." Soon after, Seles and Stevenson would be asked to serve aces for the American Heart Association, bringing awareness to heart disease. Stevenson had 100 aces in 2003. During the 2002 European indoors, Stevenson won her first doubles title with Serena Williams in Leipzig, Germany. She reached the quarterfinals of Filderstadt, defeating number one Jennifer Capriati. She was a finalist at Linz, beating four top ten players en route, including Capriati. Stevenson finished the year at 18, percentage points away from No. 17 Elena Dementieva and the WTA Tour Championships. She appeared as an alternate.
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“Freedom is not an ideal, it is not even a protection, if it means nothing more than freedom to stagnate, to live without dreams, to have no greater aim than a second car and another television set.”
—Adlai Stevenson (19001965)