'My Dream Has Officially Come True':
Kenin Wins Maiden Slam
Victoria Chiesa | February 1, 2020
It was well after midnight in the States when this Cinderella came to life.
In the wee hours of the morning back home, and under the bright lights and closed roof of Rod Laver Arena at Melbourne Park, 21-year-old American Sofia Kenin rallied past two-time Grand Slam champion and former world No. 1 Garbiñe Muguruza to win her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open on Saturday night, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.
"My dream has officially come true," the Floridian said during the trophy ceremony. "If you have a dream, go for it, because it can come true."
Later, in her post-match press conference, which finished a little more than two hours after the match, Kenin added: "Honestly, these past two weeks, there have been a lot of emotions. You could see after the match how much it all meant to me. This is such an honor.ADVERTISEMENT
"I'm so proud of myself, my dad, my team, everyone that has been around me. We've all worked hard. We've been through tough times. We did it. We fought. I'm just like on cloud nine."
Overcoming early nerves to settle into the championship match, Kenin nearly pulled out the opening set despite an early deficit. After losing serve in the third game of the match, Kenin bounced back to level the set at 4-4—breaking Muguruza for parity immediately after she saved four break points, which would've seen the Spaniard lead, 5-2.
Nonetheless, the two-time major champion and former world No. 1 stymied Kenin's momentum in the next two games, and emphatically put herself one set away from a third Grand Slam title after sealing an opener that lasted nearly an hour.
"I was obviously devastated. I knew I didn't take my chances," Kenin said, of losing the first set. "Of course, she played some really good tennis. I'm playing a two-time Grand Slam champion. She's had so much experience. I knew I needed to somehow forget what happened, just move forward and just keep believing in myself."
With the match on a razor's edge for nearly two hours and two-and-a-half sets, a pivotal fifth game in the decider was what ultimately won the match for the American—after she soared through a dominant second set in which she broke twice, and lost just three points on her own serve.
From a 0-40 deficit, Kenin fired off five straight points in stunning fashion to hold serve and keep the lead: four groundstroke winners, all of which capped rallies of more than 10 shots, and an ace.
After the match, the 21-year-old reflected on what proved to be the clear turning point.
"That's the game I feel like changed things," she said. "I had to play my best tennis. I did. After that, I was on fire. I was ready to take the beautiful trophy."
And take it she did. That crucial hold was the first of four straight games Kenin won to seal the championship, which she claimed on a second match point when Muguruza offered up her eighth, and final, double fault of the match.
"I knew I had to take my chance. I had to be brave by playing a two-time Grand Slam champion," Kenin continued. "All respect to her. She played a really tough match. Every point, it was such a battle. A lot of moving. A lot of emotions on court from both sides.
"I knew I needed to come up with the best shot, five best shots of my life... It got me to win a Grand Slam."
By virtue of her Melbourne triumph, Kenin is the youngest American to win a Slam title since 2002, when Serena Williams won three majors at the same age.
Somewhat fittingly, Kenin will surpass the 23-time Grand Slam champion in next week's WTA rankings to become the top-ranked American. Already assured of a Top-10 debut by reaching the final, Kenin will rise to a career-best world No. 7.
Calling the national and ranking milestone a "blur" that had yet to sink in, on top of the big trophy, Kenin revealed that she's nonetheless already looking ahead.
"It's just such an honor to have my name on that beautiful trophy. It's something I've dreamed about," she added. "It's an exciting moment for me and for my family. I get to share this. I mean, obviously, things are going to change for me, but we're just going to move forward, get ready for next tournaments."
And next week, the newly-minted American No. 1 will lead the U.S. Fed Cup team alongside Serena, Coco Gauff, Alison Riske and her doubles partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands—who was watching Saturday's match inside Rod Laver Arena—in a qualifying tie against former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko and Latvia in Everett, Wash., on Feb. 7-8.
"I've watched Serena. I've been following her, all the Slams she's been winning. It's a special feeling just to be ahead of her. I'm just super excited. I can't wait to compete, be on the same team with her in Fed Cup," Kenin said.
"It's exciting. I'm so happy. I was told, yeah, if I would win, I'd be No. 7. It's such an honor. I love representing the U.S. I just love it. It's an honor.
"Everything is coming into place, a dream come true. Everything I've done, all the hard work I've been doing is paying off... I feel like I'm doing some great things for American tennis. It's such an honor."