Sofia Kenin: US star joins band of bright young Grand Slam winners set to shape women's tennis for the next decade
With her Australian Open title win, Sofia Kenin has propelled herself into a crop of young women’s stars set to shape tennis for the next decade.
Appearing in a maiden Grand Slam final, Kenin battled back from a set down to defeat two-time major winner Garbine Muguruza of Spain on Saturday night.
"My dream has officially come true," Kenin told the Melbourne crowd after lifting the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.
"Dreams come true. If you have a dream then go for it – it will come true.”
Despite being only 21, Kenin has long held that dream of Grand Slam success after emerging as a child prodigy in America more than a decade ago.
Born in Moscow, Kenin emigrated with her parents to the US while she was just months old.
It was under her father Alexander’s tutelage that Kenin first swung a racket aged three and a half, and it soon became apparent she was destined for big things.
At age five, Kenin received coaching from the renowned Rick Macci, who worked with Serena and Venus Williams. Kenin herself increasingly found fame for her prodigious talents, appearing on magazine covers and hitting with the likes of Russian star Anna Kournikova.
Before this weekend’s final in Melbourne, a video circulated on social media of a seven-year-old Kenin telling reporters she could return men's star Andy Roddick’s serve.
On the junior circuit Kenin reached the US Open final in 2015, achieving a ranking of number two in the world.
Graduating to the main stage in women’s tennis, Kenin has steadily risen through the rankings, showing signs of what was to come when she dumped Serena Williams out of the French Open in the third round last year.
Heading into Melbourne this time around, Kenin was seeded 14th – signaling she was a decent outside bet, but not among the favorites.
However, with her performances – including knocking out US teen sensation Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff in the fourth round, and dispatching top seeded Australian Ashleigh Barty in the semi-final – Kenin has now ensured that her childhood promise has matured into spectacular results.Also on rt.com Yes she Ken! US youngster Kenin beats Muguruza to win maiden Grand Slam title at Australian Open
More broadly speaking, Kenin becomes the eighth first-time women’s champion in the past 12 Grand Slams.
As the men’s game continues to be dominated by the ruling triumvirate of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer – who have shared the past 12 Grand Slams between them – the women’s game can be seen as offering a refreshingly unpredictable antidote.
Kenin’s victory also means that she joins a band of young Grand Slam winners who appear poised to dominate the game as we move into the next decade.
Japan’s Naomi Osaka was 20 when she won the US Open title in 2018, following that up with victory at the Australian Open.
Australia’s Barty, 23, won last season’s French Open title, while the 2019 US Open title went to 19-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu.
Along with the likes of 15-year-old US sensation Gauff, who again shone in Melbourne before losing to Kenin, and 22-year-old Swiss star Belinda Bencic, ranked number seven in the world before the Australian Open, these are the young players increasingly shaping women’s tennis.
There are still, of course, established older names at the top; the Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova, 27, and Romania’s Simona Halep, 28, are both examples of that. Despite a disappointing showing in Australia and being 38 years old, Serena Williams still cannot be discounted from future Grand Slam discussions.
But in stark contrast to the men’s game, where ‘Next Gen’ youngsters have struggled to make a dent in the dominance of Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer, the women’s game has seen a flourishing of young talent.
Kenin is the latest example of that as she etched her name into history in Melbourne, becoming the youngest winner there since Maria Sharapova lifted the trophy as a 20-year-old in 2008.
Ahead of the final, Kenin had said that she was reveling in being in the spotlight Down Under.
“Of course, now I’m getting the attention, which I like. I‘m not going to lie,” said Kenin, who will now rise to the heights of world number seven.
And with a Grand Slam under her belt, that attention will only intensify as Kenin takes her place in the band of bright young things in women’s tennis.
These are exciting times brimming with youth for the female side of the game.