Pro Media & News

Kenin into first career semifinal

at Australian Open

Ashley Marshall  |  January 28, 2020

When Sofia Kenin was starting her journey in tennis, she says there were doubters who told her she would never succeed. Today—even though she is much too polite to ever say it—she has every right to look back at those naysayers and tell them, ‘I told you so.’


The talented 21-year-old American advanced to her first career Grand Slam semifinal Tuesday with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Ons Jabeur on Day 9 of the Australian Open.


“I was just starting off on the WTA Tour,” Kenin (pictured above) reminisced after her quarterfinal win. “I really had to establish myself to show everyone who I am. I think a big part that got me here is my family were there for me.


“It was obviously tough. Like I said, people didn't really believe in me and everything. But [my family] believed in me, especially my dad, since he's been with me through this incredible journey. ADVERTISEMENT I was born in Russia. My parents moved to America so I could have the American dream, so... I was not aware of what happened. They gave me an American dream. I'm proud of it and thankful for them.”


Kenin will meet world No. 1 Ash Barty on Thursday for a spot in the final.


On Tuesday, Kenin weathered the unconventional attack of Jabeur, which contained plenty of slice, unusual angles and frequent forays to the net. It was a different battle to the one Kenin played against big-hitting Coco Gauff one round earlier, but Kenin played within herself and attacked the Jabeur backhand.


Kenin finished with 14 winners and 16 unforced errors compared with Jabeur’s 34 winners and 36 miscues.


The 21-year-old jumped out to a 3-1 lead before Jabeur broke back in the sixth game of the match. The parity lasted not even a game, with Kenin hitting right back and consolidating the break to forge ahead 5-3. Jabeur saved a pair of set points in her very next service game, and she had an opportunity to draw level but the American held firm and sealed the set on her sixth set point.


In the second set, Jabeur saved a break point in the fifth game before Kenin saved three on her own racquet in the next game. The decisive moment came with Jabeur serving at 3-3 when, on her fourth break point of the game, Kenin broke for a third time in the match to establish a lead she would never relinquish.


The Tunisian held at 3-5 to stay in the tournament, but Kenin served it out at her first opportunity to progress to Thursday’s semifinal.


With her win, an American woman has advanced to the semifinal in 20 of the past 22 majors.


“It feels really good. I'm super excited for it,” Kenin said. “I think overall I played really good. I tried to handle the nerves. Obviously nerves coming into this match. I think I did a really good job handling myself.


“I played [Barty] a few times, know her game pretty well. It's going to be a good match. I'm excited. Of course, she's playing at her home, so it's a little bit different. I made a lot of new fans. Hopefully I'll get some support, have a good match. … I don't think I've played anyone big in their home crowd. It's going to be a different atmosphere obviously. But it's exciting. I'm really looking forward to it.”

On the men’s side, the last U.S. man standing, Tennys Sandgren, fell agonizingly short of a place in the semifinals. He was unable to convert any of the seven match points he earned in a thrilling contest with 20-time Grand Slam men’s singles champion Roger Federer.


“I played pretty good,” Sandgren said. “I thought I could have played better. Yeah, wasn't surprised. Obviously he played them well. I could have played them better.

“I've run through them a bunch of times. He was aggressive on one, passive on a few, came in on one, could have put the volley in a different spot. He read it well, hit two good passes. Put me in an awkward spot on the last one I had. Missed the approach. He probably would have passed me anyway. It was in a bad spot. Yeah, you know, all credit to him for sure.”


Added Federer: “I feel a bit bad in a way because I didn't feel like he did anything really wrong. It's just luck at some point. I've been on the other side, as well. These ones just sting, and they hurt. I don't know. If you could obviously play them again, would you play them differently? But I could have blinked at the wrong time and shanked. That would have been it. I was incredibly lucky today.”


Elsewhere on Day 9, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Britain;s Jamie Murray advanced to the third round of the mixed doubles, and Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury progressed to the semifinals of the men’s doubles.


Coco Gauff and Caty McNally lost to No. 2 seed Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic in the quarterfinals of the women’s doubles, 6-2, 6-4.


Action also continued in the junior competitions, with No. 2 boys’ seed Martin Damm and second-seeded girl Robin Montgomery each advancing.


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