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Sloane Stephens made a big splash in January when, at age 19, she reached the semifinals of the Australian Open by shocking the mighty Serena Williams. It was the match of her life, and Stephens responded with great poise, playing fearless tennis to win in three sets.

The idea of making the impossible possible was something Stephens learned at home. Her mother, Sybil Smith, swam in college at Boston University and became the first African-American Division I swimmer to be named All-America. At the 1988 NCAA championships, Smith finished in sixth place in the 100-meter backstroke.

"I've heard a lot of kids try to explain to their parents that the parents don't know what they're going through," says Stephens. "Well, I can't really use that line with my mom!"

Text: Julia Morrill
Photo: SIMON BRUTY/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED/GETTY IMAGES (STEPHENS) and COURTESY OF SYBIL SMITH (STEPHENS AND SMITH)

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