‘Speechless’: American youngster Sofia Kenin shocks home favorite Ashleigh Barty to reach Australian Open final
The 21-year-old American produced a superb display to win 7-6 (8-6) 7-5 at Rod Laver Arena as Barty appeared to crumble under the pressure of attempting to become the first Australian woman in 40 years to reach the final in Melbourne.
Clutch Kenin@SofiaKenin collects a 7-6(6) 7-5 win over world No. 1 Barty to reach her first Grand Slam final and become the youngest Melbourne finalist since 2008.#AO2020 | #AusOpenpic.twitter.com/vPxrtFzgZU— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 30, 2020
In fierce heat in Melbourne, the first set went with serve as both players were largely solid with ball in hand, although Kenin, seeded 14th, was forced to save three break points in game six.
Into the tie-break and it was Barty, 23, who initially wrestled the advantage, setting up two set points only for them to go begging.
Kenin then planted a big forehand winner before Barty netted a return to hand the American the opening set.
Barty had produced 22 winners in the set but also made 21 unforced errors as she appeared nervy under the weight of expectation from the home crowd.
The Australian world number one began the second set with more conviction, breaking Kenin in the third game and going on to serve for the set.
However, the pressure again seemed to tell as the Australian smashed a volley into the net with the court at her mercy to allow Kenin to break back and level things at 5-5.
The young American then comfortably held serve, while more unforced errors followed from Barty as she served to stay in the match and the tournament.
The Australian double-faulted on the way to giving Kenin two match points, and although she saved the first of those Barty then sent a forehand long to give Kenin the match and a spot in the final.
Moscow-born Kenin, who emigrated from Russia to America with her family as a baby, said afterwards that she was stunned at reaching her maiden Grand Slam final.
"She's such a tough player. I knew I needed to find a way to win. This wasn't an easy one but I'm just so grateful and thankful for this moment," she said on court afterwards.
"I'm just so speechless. I've dreamed about this moment since I was five years old. I have worked so hard to get here so thanks to everyone, my dad and everyone back home. Thank you guys!
"She [Barty] came up with some really great shots. It was tough. I knew she wasn't going to give it up. I needed to fight out there."
Kenin becomes the youngest Australian Open women's finalist since Maria Sharapova won the tournament as a 20-year-old in 2008.
Kenin will face the winner of Thursday’s second semi-final between Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza, but the American seemed unconcerned over the outcome of that match, saying: "I'm not even going to look. I'm just going to relax, enjoy this moment and whoever it is going to be, it is going to be a great final."