Kenin over­comes odds to snare crown

Sunday Territorian - - SPORT -

DAR­ING and de­fi­ant, Sofia Kenin has crowned her stun­ning rise to sport­ing su­per­star­dom with a dra­macharged Aus­tralian Open fi­nal tri­umph over Gar­bine Mugu­ruza.

The Amer­i­can prodigy fought back from a set down to deny the resur­gent for­mer world No.1 and dual ma­jor win­ner 4-6 6-2 6-2 last night to land her maiden grand slam ti­tle.

The 21-year-old 14th seed is the youngest player to win the Open since fel­low Rus­sian-born Amer­i­can Maria Shara­pova in 2008.

Fit­tingly, her story is not un­like Shara­pova’s, with Kenin’s fa­ther and coach Alexan­der flee­ing the Soviet Union and tak­ing English classes by day and driv­ing taxis by night in the hope of giv­ing his fam­ily a bet­ter life.

Al­most three decades on and his pre­co­ciously tal­ented daugh­ter is now the youngest Amer­i­can to crack the world’s top 10 since the great Ser­ena Wil­liams in 1999.

More im­por­tantly she’s a grand slam cham­pion af­ter back­ing up her stir­ring semi­fi­nal win over Aus­tralia’s world No.1 Ash­leigh Barty with a fear­less dis­play of at­tack­ing tennis on one of the sport’s big­gest stages.

Chas­ing a third grand slam ti­tle of her own, Mugu­ruza was un­done by eight dou­ble-faults af­ter mak­ing the early run­ning on Rod Laver Arena.

The Spa­niard broke Kenin in the third game and con­trolled for much of the open­ing set.

Af­ter miss­ing sev­eral chances to forge to a dou­ble break, Mugu­ruza, in a wor­ry­ing sign of what was to come, coughed up suc­ces­sive dou­bles to al­low Kenin back on level terms at 4-4.

Shak­ing off the dis­ap­point­ment, the for­mer Wim­ble­don and French Open cham­pion broke straight back be­fore clinch­ing the first set in 53 min­utes. But, show­ing no signs of nerves or ten­sion in her first grand slam fi­nal, Kenin fought back doggedly to storm through the sec­ond set.

The writ­ing was on the wall for Mugu­ruza when she dropped serve for a fourth time, from 40-love up no less, to hand Kenin a 4-2 lead.

Kenin saved break point to hold for 5-2 be­fore Mugu­ruza sadly dou­ble-faulted on match point as the Amer­i­can pre­vailed af­ter two hours and three min­utes.

Pic­ture: AP PHOTO

Sofia Kenin of the US holds the Daphne Akhurst Me­mo­rial Cup af­ter de­feat­ing Spain's Gar­bine Mugu­ruza

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