Sofia Kenin: The 21yo US star eyeing maiden Grand Slam glory at Australian Open
When events in Melbourne reached the semi-final phase, the vast majority of pundits were talking up a potential showdown in the final between fourth seed Simona Halep and world number one Ashleigh Barty, who was looking to become the first Australian to lift the women’s singles title in Melbourne since 1978.
However, what looked to be quite a predictable final encounter turned out to be a ruined dream as both players were knocked out by lower-ranked opponents.
The 21-year-old Kenin withstood Australia’s enervating heat and thunderous support of the Rod Laver Arena crowd which fiercely cheered for Barty to book a spot in her maiden Melbourne Grand Slam final.
"I'm not shocked. It's a dream come true for me. I've always dreamed about this. Of course, I believed in myself,” Kenin said after her sensational semi-final win.
The rising US star defeated homegrown favorite Barty in straight sets 7-6, 7-5, becoming the youngest Australian Open women's finalist since Ana Ivanovic and Maria Sharapova contested the showpiece as 20-year-olds in 2008.
The Moscow-born Kenin, whose family moved to the USA in 1998, has frequently paid tribute to her parents, and began to play tennis at the age of five.
Watching her noticeable progress Kenin’s parents decided that she should train under a highly professional coach who could help her to evolve into a top class athlete. Their choice fell on Rick Macci who played a huge role in Kenin’s development as a player.
She was a finalist at the 2015 US Open girls' singles and was ranked number two in the world, winning the Orange Bowl at the age of 16.
Kenin turned professional in 2017 and with just three years on the tour she has already reached the final of the Australian Open.
The world number 15 will undoubtedly improve her rankings after Saturday’s final, rising to at least number 12 and becoming the second-ranked American female player behind Serena Williams.
It remains unknown who will lift the coveted trophy in Melbourne, with both Kenin and Muguruza rising from underdogs to potential title holders.
With no clear leader in women’s tennis right now, every Grand Slam tournament becomes an unpredictable spectacle where any number of players can turn all forecasts upside down by becoming a newly-crowned champion.