With her comeback victory over two time Grand Slam champion and former world No. 1, Garbiñe Muguruza this weekend, Sofia Kenin was crowned the best of the best at the 2020 Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia.
‘This is just an honour,” said the 21-year-old American in her post match presser after winning her maiden Grand Slam. “It’s an exciting moment for me and my family.”
While her father, Alex, is her coach and travels with her, Kenin’s mother has a difficult time coping with her nerves when she watches her daughter compete, and prefers not to travel for her matches – or even watch on television.
“I called her right after the match just to tell her that everything’s fine, and that I won; and she can relax now because she’s been really stressed out at home and really superstitious,” said Kenin with a smile after her big victory.
In the championship match at Rod Laver Arena, Kenin would lose the first set 4-6 to Muguruza but showed mental toughness to rebound strongly immediately after. She would step up her game to take the next two sets in convincing fashion 6-2, 6-2.
“On the important points she came out with winners,” said Muguruza in her post match presser about Kenin’s ability to step up her game in the big moments.
“The break points and the game points and these kinds of moments she came out (with) winners. It was the first Grand Slam final for her and she performed really well.”
The newly crowned Aussie Open champion points to her breakthrough success in 2019 for laying the foundation for her magical run in Melbourne over the past two weeks.
“All the confidence has come from all the matches that I’ve had and the success that I’ve had in 2019,” said the 21-year-old American.
Kenin won her first WTA tournament at the beginning of 2019 at the Hobart International when she defeated Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-3, 6-0 in the championship match.
That would be followed by a strong run at the 2019 French Open where she beat Serena Williams 6-2, 7-5 in the third round.
After their 2019 match at Roland Garros, Williams spoke about how impressed she was with Kenin’s pinpoint accuracy.
“In that first set in particular, she hit pretty much inches from the line, and I haven’t played anyone like that in a long time,” Williams noted.
“I just saw a player that was playing unbelievable.”
Kenin was understandably very pleased with her victory over the 23-time Grand Slam champion on such a big stage.
“I’m still trying to process what just happened. I knew before the match, I was ready to go. I was there to win a match. Of course she’s a true champion and an inspiration and she’s done amazing things for American tennis…I’m just really happy with this win,” said Kenin after her third round victory over the American tennis icon.
However, she would lose her following match to eventual champion, Ashleigh Barty, in the fourth round.
Right after the 2019 French Open, Kenin would capture the Mallorca Open in Spain as she defeated Belinda Bencic 67(2), 76(5), 64 in the championship match.
Kenin would go onto win her third WTA title in September as she beat Samantha Stosur 67(4), 64, 62 to capture the Guangzhou Open in China.
At the conclusion of the season, Kenin was named WTA Most Improved Player of the Year. She became the first American to win the honour since Serena Williams did it back in 1999.
“I feel like I’ve had a lot of matches. I’m playing with confidence. I’m playing the best players in the world, big stages, best tournaments. I mean, things are good,” said Kenin after her season ending loss at the WTA Finals to Elina Svitolina.
Kenin’s run to to the Aussie Open title saw her knock off fellow American Coco Gauff, current world number 1, Ashleigh Barty, and then of course two time Grand Slam champ Garbiñe Muguruza in the finals.
After scoring her maiden Grand Slam title this weekend, Kenin spoke about the perseverance and dedication of her entire team in their quest to reach the pinnacle in Melbourne.
“We went through tough times and but you know what? We did it, we fought through,” said Kenin. “I’m just on cloud nine right now.”
And while her breakthrough success in 2019 provided the foundation for the young American to be crowned the best of the best in Melbourne this weekend, Kenin now has reason be even more optimistic and confident as she prepares for what promises to be a very bright future ahead following her maiden Grand Slam title win.
“I see that things are happening for me and everything is falling into place,” said the 21-year-old American.
“It’s been an incredible journey. Hopefully, I can build up on everything I’ve done these two weeks and just move forward.”