Clutch Kenin@SofiaKenin collects a 7-6(6) 7-5 win over world No. 1 Barty to reach her first Grand Slam final and become the youngest Melbourne finalist since 2008.#AO2020 | #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/vPxrtFzgZU
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 30, 2020
Both semifinals featured fireworks as Kenin upset current world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia 7-6(6), 7-5 in front of her home-country fans, and Muguruza ousted No. 4-seeded Simona Halep of Romania by a nearly identical score 7-6(8), 7-5.
“I believed I could win even though I had two set points down in the first and second,” said the 21-year-old Kenin of Pembroke Pines, Fla. “I could literally feel, I was telling myself, I believe in myself. If I lose the set, I’m still going to come out and believe. I didn’t give up…I left everything out all on the court, so it paid off.”
Both players appeared nervous with Kenin in her first Grand Slam semifinal, and Barty attempting to become the first Australian woman in more than 40 years to win in Melbourne. The temperature climbed above 100 Fahrenheit during the match, testing the players and causing balls to fly off racquets as both players attempted to control unforced errors.
Kenin entered the match at 1-4 career versus Barty, and showed her fighting spirit in the difficult conditions, saving set points in both sets.
“I put myself in a position to win the match today and just didn’t play the biggest points well enough to be able to win,” Barty said afterward. “I have to give credit where credit’s due. Sofia came out and played aggressively on those points and deserved to win.”
On the cusp ➡️
— USTA (@usta) January 30, 2020
Kenin, who had an under-the-radar junior career before passing on a scholarship offer to the University of Miami to turn pro, last year broke out winning her first three WTA titles in four finals. Now with her effort in Melbourne, she will crack the Top 10 for the first time on the WTA rankings.
“First I’m just going to be enjoying the moment,” Kenin said. “You don’t experience this so often. Of course, I’m going to enjoy it. This is so exciting. Literally butterflies. I’m just going to also focus on what I need to do, focus on my game. I got here, it’s time to shine, do the best I can.”
Can’t wait to see you all guys on Saturday at final 🙏🏼 Happy to have shared the court with you Ash, great match! pic.twitter.com/tzOd23br3p
— Sofia Kenin (@SofiaKenin) January 30, 2020
Her opponent in the final, Muguruza, is no rookie with two Grand Slam titles under her belt and a former holder of the world No. 1 ranking. The Spaniard entered Melbourne as the No. 32-ranked player on the WTA rankings after a difficult 2019, but looks to have righted the ship.
“I believe in myself that I have what it takes to play these kinds of matches and to be in this stage,” Muguruza said after her semifinal win. “The mission is to get away from here with a big trophy.”
Kenin and Muguruza have met only once on tour, with the American winning last year in three sets in Beijing.