Tennis celebrated another brilliant young female star in Melbourne as 21-year-old Sofia Kenin defeated Garbine Muguruza to win the Australian Open title.
Following in the footsteps of Naomi Osaka, Ashleigh Barty and Bianca Andreescu, American Kenin produced a brilliant performance in her first grand slam final, coming from a set down to win 4-6 6-2 6-2.
A child prodigy who had remained surprisingly under the radar despite beating Serena Williams at the French Open last year, Kenin has quickly built a reputation for intelligence and feistiness.
She appeared to relish being booed by the crowd during that victory over Williams in Paris, and greeted the biggest moments in this match as if she was insulted by them.
The five points she played to hold serve from 0-40 at 2-2 in the deciding set were not just the key to the match but a demonstration of a very special talent and mentality.
Kenin’s father and coach, Alex, who moved the family to America from Russia when his daughter was a baby to give her a better life, could barely watch as the finish line approached.
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But it was Muguruza who faltered, a double fault on Kenin’s second match point handing the stunned American victory.
After receiving the trophy from Lindsay Davenport 20 years after her title, Kenin said: “This is my first speech but I’m going to try my best.
“First off I want to congratulate Garbine on a great match and a great tournament. I’m sure we’re going to have many more finals.
“My dream officially came true, I cannot even describe this feeling. It’s so emotional. I’ve worked so hard. If you have a dream, go for it, it’s going to come true.
“Last but not least I want to thank my team, my dad. I can’t believe we’re here today. I’m so grateful for this.”
Muguruza had been hoping to win her third slam title having emerged from the wilderness under the guidance again of Conchita Martinez, with whom she lifted the Wimbledon title in 2017.
But she could find no way to disrupt Kenin’s march to the title, and a new position as the leading American in the rankings.