Kenin no stranger to the hard road

The Citizen (KZN) - - Sport -

Melbourne – Sofia Kenin’s fa­ther yes­ter­day re­flected on their jour­ney from the Soviet Union all the way to to­day’s Aus­tralian Open fi­nal, say­ing it helped make his daugh­ter the player she is to­day.

The 21-year-old Kenin (right), who plays Spain’s Gar­bine Mugu­ruza in the Melbourne fi­nal, has made a name for her­self in the past fort­night for her ag­gres­sion and tenac­ity.

Kenin – who prefers to go by the name “Sonya” – was born in Moscow but is a fiercely proud Amer­i­can.

The 14th seed, who stunned world No 1 Ash­leigh Barty in the semi­fi­nals, has a rac­quet dec­o­rated with the stars and stripes.

On the eve of the big­gest match of her fast-bur­geon­ing ca­reer, her fa­ther Alexan­der, who is also her coach, re­told the fam­ily story.

He and wife Lena left the Soviet Union in 1987, ini­tially for New York, re­turn­ing to Rus­sia for Sofia’s birth in 1998 so a grand­mother could help with the new­born.

The fam­ily would later set­tle in Florida and Kenin says her par­ents sac­ri­ficed them­selves “so I could have the Amer­i­can dream”.

Alexan­der said: “I wanted a bet­ter fu­ture for my kids and it (then Soviet Union) was a com­pletely dif­fer­ent coun­try (to what it is to­day).

“Noth­ing was al­lowed and we tried to get out for eight years.

“They con­trolled ev­ery­thing, we didn’t see the world, you were just stuck.”

Leav­ing friends and fam­ily be­hind and head­ing into the un­known of the United States was a wrench, said Alexan­der, and life was tough ek­ing out a liv­ing in New York.

Alexan­der was a taxi driver by night and went to English and com­puter school by day.

“I don’t think she ex­pe­ri­enced all the sac­ri­fices we had to go through, but she knows about them,” he said.

“It was very, very tough. I had to work at night, go to school in the morn­ing. Driv­ing in New York, speak­ing English on the (taxi) ra­dio. I had no idea what they were say­ing.

“But it’s amaz­ing the things you do to sur­vive. She knows about that and I think it made her tough.”

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