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Champion Kenin thanks 'crazy smart' dad – the self-taught coach behind her success

  • Posted: Feb 01, 2020
2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app; Watch highlights on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer.

When Sofia Kenin was closing in on her maiden Grand Slam title, her dad could barely watch.

Alex Kenin’s face was contorted with tension and then covered with his hands as he hunched forward nervously on his seat.

This was the moment they had dreamed of ever since she picked up a racquet aged five and became a child prodigy who hit with the stars.

When Kenin’s 4-6 6-2 6-2 win over Garbine Muguruza in the Australian Open final was complete, the 21-year-old American raced around the net to the opposite corner of the court to tenderly grasp the hand of her father, who is also her coach.

She says they both asked each other what had just happened.

Two hours or so later, with the Daphne Akhurst trophy on the table and a glass of Champagne in her hand, she had a simple message to the man who gave her the “American dream”.

“Just thank you to him. We can share this forever,” said Kenin.

Alex, a quiet Russian who moved to New York in 1987, responded by using his two index fingers to draw a smile on his face.

“He saw I had talent and we said ‘let’s just go for it and do this professionally for my life’,” said Kenin, who will rise to seventh in the world when the rankings are updated on Monday.

“He knows what he is talking about and comes up with the right plans and the right strategies. He just knows it.

“He did it by learning the whole experience. He is crazy smart.”

What makes Kenin’s rise remarkable is the fact her dad has guided her all the way there as a self-taught coach with little background in the sport.

Alex drove one of New York City’s iconic yellow cabs before becoming a computer consultant, then took over as her coach when his daughter’s career became more serious.

He played tennis “just for fun” in his younger days back home in Moscow and Crimea but says he did not play “well”.

It was apparent his daughter, who Alex and wife Svetlana took to be born back in Russia before returning to Manhattan shortly afterwards, was a special talent.

She quickly became a star in the States, featuring on television programmes and the covers of magazines which labelled her as a future Grand Slam champion.

Famously, aged seven, she claimed she would be able to return a serve from hard-hitting American star Andy Roddick, then practised with the likes of Grand Slam champions John McEnroe, Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters.

The WTA posted a video this week of four-time Grand Slam singles champion Clijsters giving a tour to a then six-year-old Kenin, with the Belgian saying “who knows, she might be one of the new big stars”.

Quickly she rose through the junior ranks, with two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka even saying recently that Kenin “killed it” during those years.

The constant by her side has been her dad, who says he was never tempted to hire a ‘professional’ coach.

“She was always number one at 12, 14, 16, 18. So why change a good thing?” said Alex, who thanked journalists for their “attention” after he spoke to them.

His daughter has become the youngest Australian Open champion since Maria Sharapova in 2008 and the eighth woman to become a first-time Grand Slam winner in the past 12 events.

As with Japanese 22-year-old Osaka and 19-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu before her, she has become the latest young star to leave the world wondering if she can go on to dominate the game.

Throw American 15-year-old Coco Gauff, who Kenin impressively beat in the last 16 in Melbourne, into the mix and the future of the women’s game looks bright.

“I saw what Naomi and Bianca achieved and I really wanted to achieve that,” said Kenin, whose given name is Sofia but is known by its diminutive Sonya – the name of Alex’s mother – at home.

“It gave me a big boost, big motivation.

“My dad was telling me: ‘It is great for them and you can really achieve this too’.

“I’ve seen women’s tennis is changing. We can all play each other on any given day and there can be a lot of damage happening.”

Muguruza, a two-time Grand Slam champion, can testify as to the damage Kenin can cause.

The American’s relentless returning, ability to execute under pressure and an insatiable will-to-win ground down the Spaniard, who led by a set before being mentally and physically worn down in Saturday’s final in Melbourne.

Kenin swung the match her way with a monumental hold from 3-2 40-0 down in the third set.

Two backhands down the line under the most intense of pressure were outrageous, a third winner – this time down the other flank – almost ridiculous.

An ace out wide and a crosscourt forehand winner – after drawing Muguruza into the net – clinched the hold. It also virtually clinched the championship.

Muguruza crumbled from that point, producing three double faults – including one on match point – in what proved to be the final game.

“I knew I needed to come up with the five best shots of my life. I mean, let’s go!” laughed Kenin, who plans to spend some of her £2.1m winnings in luxury jewellery stores in Melbourne.

Growing up in the affluent Manhattan neighbourhood of Upper East Side, she says she is a “typical blonde girl” from that area.

“I’m into all those fancy stores,” said Kenin, who has almost doubled her previous career winnings of £2.9m.

“I like to have that luxurious life. I’ve worked so hard for it. it’s super exciting and I get to do what I want.”

That she is able to do that is down to father Alex and mother Svetlana, who was back home in Florida with Kenin’s grandma, sister and dogs.

Kenin said her mum cannot watch her matches because she gets too nervous.

“I called her right after the match just to tell her that everything’s fine, I won, she can just relax now,” said Kenin, who mouthed “Oh my God! Look at all these people” when she walked into a packed media room.

“I told her I’m not going to be able to talk to you for hours, but at least you know that I won.

“I’m coming home, you can give me the biggest hug of your life.”

Although the rest of the Kenin family could see exactly what was happening on Rod Laver Arena through the television pictures, Alex melted the hearts of more than a few people who watched him film his daughter’s maiden Grand Slam acceptance speech on his mobile phone.

Afterwards, sitting alone in a quiet media area and going through countless messages on the same device, he had a confession to make.

“It didn’t go too well, I didn’t press record properly,” he laughed.

It was probably the only mistake he has made this fortnight.

  • Kenin wins maiden Grand Slam
  • Kenin v Muguruza – as it happened
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Djokovic A Master Manipulator When It Matters Most

  • Posted: Feb 01, 2020

Djokovic A Master Manipulator When It Matters Most

Serbian makes opponents play break points on his terms

Novak Djokovic thrives on adversity by limiting its existence.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of rally length on break point in Djokovic’s six matches leading up to Sunday’s Australian Open final against Dominic Thiem shows that the Serbian plays shorter points when he is facing break point, and that he extends the rally when his opponents are serving at break point.

Djokovic is a master manipulator of the moments that matter.

For the tournament, Djokovic’s average rally length for all points played has been 4.07 shots, which equates to just two shots for each player. Dominic Thiem, his opponent in the final, is right in the same ballpark, averaging 4.19 shots per point for the event.

But if you dig a little deeper into break point opportunities in Djokovic’s matches, you uncover a sizable difference in rally length when he is serving and when his opponent is serving.

Djokovic Rally Length / Break Points
• Average rally length = 4.07 shots
• Average rally length when Djokovic serves facing break point = 2.83 shots
• Average rally length when opponents serves facing break point = 4.62 shots

2020 Australian Open: Djokovic’s First Six Matches

 Opponent  Match: Avg Rally Length

 Djokovic Avg Rally Length
On Break Points

 Opponent Avg Rally Length
 On Break Points
 Roger Federer  3.84  3.00  4.09
 Milos Raonic  3.71  1.00  4.13
 Diego Schwartzman  4.82  4.00  4.75
 Yoshihito Nishioka  4.32  1.00  2.83
 Tatsuma Ito  3.99  –  5.33
 Jan-Lennard Struff  3.95  3.00  6.18
 AVERAGE  4.07  2.83  4.62

In a substantial 50 per cent of Djokovic’s 18 break points faced (9/18), there has been just one shot in the court, which is a combination of aces and missed returns by his opponents.

Only one break point on Djokovic’s serve reached double digits in rally length. That was a 10-shot rally at 0-1, 15/40 in the first set against Roger Federer. Federer drew Djokovic to the net with a backhand drop shot, and then ripped a backhand passing shot down the line to earn an early 2-0 lead.

Djokovic has created 61 break point opportunities leading into the final in Melbourne, winning 44 per cent (27/61) of them. Only 30 per cent (18/61) of those break points were a one-shot rally, meaning Djokovic was aced or missed a return. Significantly, Djokovic has extended the rally length to double digits eight times when his opponent was serving on break point, winning seven of those points.

Expect this dynamic to continue in Sunday’s Australian Open final against Thiem. Manipulating rally length in the big moments will be as important as any strategy Djokovic employs in his attempt to win his eighth title Down Under.

Editor’s Note: Craig O’Shannessy used to be part of Djokovic’s coaching team.

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Australian Open: Novak Djokovic must 'go up a level' to beat Dominic Thiem

  • Posted: Feb 01, 2020
2020 Australian Open men’s singles final
Venue: Melbourne Park Date: Sunday, 2 February Time: 08:30 GMT
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live and online; Live text on the BBC Sport website and app; Watch highlights on BBC Two (13:30 GMT) and BBC iPlayer.

Novak Djokovic will have to “go up another level” if he is to beat Dominic Thiem and win a record-extending eighth Australian Open men’s singles title, says Pat Cash.

Serbia’s Djokovic meets Austrian fifth seed Thiem at 08:30 GMT on Sunday.

Second seed Djokovic, 32, goes for his 17th Grand Slam title, while Thiem, 26, bids for a first.

“Thiem has a real chance,” said Australian Cash, who won Wimbledon in 1987.

“He hits the ball as big, he can last forever, he is super quick.

“It is really going to come down to whether he has the energy to outlast Novak.”

Djokovic has lost only three matches in the past 10 tournaments at Melbourne Park and has eased through this year’s draw.

Thiem reached the final after what he called “super intense” victories over Spanish top seed Rafael Nadal in the last eight and Germany’s seventh seed Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals.

“Djokovic has cruised through so easily, he hasn’t had a lot of tough competition,” added Cash, who will analyse the match on BBC Radio 5 live.

“Certainly not in the style Thiem brings. That is the only question mark for me.”

  • Kenin beats Muguruza to win maiden Grand Slam title
  • Murray & Mattek-Sands beaten in mixed doubles final

Thiem counting on adrenaline of reaching final

Thiem, who has lost the past two French Open finals to Nadal, has 24 hours less than Djokovic to prepare for his third Grand Slam final.

Djokovic played his semi-final against Roger Federer on Thursday night, with Thiem beating Zverev on Friday night.

The Australian Open is the only Grand Slam where both semi-finals are not played on the same day.

“There are disadvantages but also advantages,” Thiem said.

“I think it’s also a little bit of a challenge to have all the time one day off and all of a sudden two. Of course, I have less time to regenerate.

“But with all the adrenaline and everything, it’s going to be fine.”

Djokovic has won six of their previous 10 meetings, although Thiem has beaten him in each of their past two Grand Slam matches – at the French Open in 2017 and 2019.

Thiem also won when they last met on a hard court, a thrilling three-set win at the ATP Finals in November, which was widely recognised as one of 2019’s finest matches on the men’s tour.

“Novak is the favourite and coming in fresh is a big bonus,” Cash said.

“I think he will get through but it won’t be as easy as people think it will be.”

‘Djokovic wants to improve every day’

After needing four sets to beat Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff in a tricky opening match, Djokovic has not dropped another set on his way to the final.

A nervous start against old foe Roger Federer briefly threatened him in their semi-final, before Djokovic reasserted himself to ease through in three sets as the Swiss struggled with a groin injury.

Djokovic has dropped serve only three times since his first-round match and has won 82% of his first-serve points in the tournament.

“He is serving better and his second serve is like 180/190kph – he wasn’t serving like that before,” Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic told BBC Radio 5 live.

“I didn’t tell him to serve 190kph second serve but I have made little changes with the ball toss.

“Now he is confident and believes he can serve harder.”

Ivanisevic, who won Wimbledon in 2001, linked up with the Serb last year on a part-time basis and works alongside his full-time coach Marian Vajda.

“It is tough to teach the guy who has been the best tennis player in the world over the past nine years but he still wants to improve every day,” added Croat Ivanisevic.

“It is great as a coach to have a player like that who wants to listen, to learn and improve every single day.”

Can Djokovic catch Federer?

Djokovic’s victory over 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer in last year’s epic Wimbledon final took him closer to the Swiss’ tally than he has ever been.

Knocking Federer out of this tournament – plus Nadal’s defeat by Thiem – has given Djokovic the chance of further reducing that gap.

Almost six years younger than Federer, Djokovic could add plenty more, barring a loss of form or fitness.

His pursuit of Federer and Nadal is made more remarkable by the fact he won his first major in 2008 – when Federer had claimed 13 and Nadal five – and only added a second three years later.

Djokovic will also return to the top of the world rankings, replacing Nadal, if he beats Thiem.

‘I have to risk a lot’ – what they say about each other

Djokovic on Thiem: “He is definitely one of the best players in the world. He deserves to be where he is.

“It seems like he’s improved his game a lot on hard courts, because his game is more suitable to the slower surfaces. The clay of course being his favourite surface.

“But winning Indian Wells last year, beating Roger in the final, that probably gave him a lot of confidence that he can win big tournaments on other surfaces, as well.

“It’s just a matter of one match here and there that can potentially give him a Grand Slam title, that he can actually get in the mix of top three in the world.

“He definitely has the game. He has the experience now. He has the strength. He has all the means to really be there.”

Thiem on Djokovic: “For sure he’s the favourite. I mean, he won seven titles here, never lost a final, going for his eighth one.

“It’s his comfort zone here. He always plays his best tennis in Australia.

“I think I have to keep a good balance. Of course, I have to risk a lot. I have to go for many shots. At the same time, of course, not too much.

“That’s a very thin line. In the last match against him, hit that line perfectly in London.

“Of course, I am going to take a look at that match, how I played, and try to repeat it. I mean, I’m feeling good on the court. I’m playing great tennis. So try to be at my absolutely best.”

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What Thiem's Team Believes The Key To His Success Is Against Djokovic

  • Posted: Feb 01, 2020

What Thiem’s Team Believes The Key To His Success Is Against Djokovic

Austrian plays for his first Grand Slam title on Sunday

Nicolas Massu and Wolfgang Thiem, Dominic Thiem’s coaches, spoke to the media on Saturday before the World No. 5 faces seven-time champion Novak Djokovic on Sunday in the Australian Open final. And Massu repeated one word five times to emphasise what he believes has been the key to his charge’s success: confidence.

“For me the most important thing is the confidence. You are alone in this sport. You have to take decisions,” Massu said. “If you win one tournament or you play one unbelievable tournament like Indian Wells, for example, then you believe that you can make big things.”

One year ago, Thiem lost in the second round at Melbourne Park. At that point, the Austrian was known for his clay-court prowess. But he won three of his five titles in 2019 on hard court, including his maiden ATP Masters 1000 triumph at the BNP Paribas Open. He also reached the championship match at the Nitto ATP Finals, which is played on hard court. According to Massu, the former World No. 9, all of those results have only increased Thiem’s confidence on the surface, leading to an even higher level.

“Indian Wells was a slow hard court. The bounce was really high. It’s perfect for him. But then he started to play very, very solid on that surface,” Massu said. “Then he won in Vienna, finals in Masters in London, also [winning] Beijing. He was playing really, really well. Sometimes small details make a big difference. But I think it’s confidence, that you believe you can play the same tennis on both surfaces.”

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Preview: Will Thiem Loosen Djokovic’s Iron Grip On The Australian Open Title?

Thiem has been in Australia for well over a month, arriving early to train for the ATP Cup. At the inaugural 24-country event, Thiem lost two of his three matches. But the tough competition helped him build form, which translated into success in Melbourne, according to Wolfgang Thiem, his father, who is also one of his coaches.

“It was a good preparation because we came to Australia already on 20 of December to prepare. Then he played the ATP Cup. We worked a lot on the fitness in Miami in December, then [played] a lot of tennis in [Australia],” Wolfgang Thiem said. “At the ATP Cup he played some really good matches. He had a good win against [Diego] Schwartzman and this close loss against [Hubert] Hurkacz, then more days to prepare for this tournament. I think he’s increased match by match.”

It’s been an impressive run for the fifth seed at the season’s first Grand Slam, as Thiem has beaten World No. 1 Rafael Nadal and 2018 Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev in back-to-back matches to reach the final.

“It’s a big motivation to beat players like Nadal, No. 1 in the world, on the centre court in a Slam. [That] always make you so happy because you work for this,” Massu said. “Now he’s looking forward [to] the match for tomorrow. Everyone knows that is difficult to play against Nole because he’s an unbelievable player. But if Dominic is in the final, it’s because he deserves it.”

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This isn’t Thiem’s first appearance in a Grand Slam final, falling short against Nadal in the championship match at Roland Garros in each of the past two years. He will hope what he has learned from those experiences will help against Djokovic on Sunday.

“Every time you play important matches like a final of a Slam, you get more experience. Dominic already played two… Of course that helps that you passed this situation before,” Massu said. “It doesn’t matter sometimes which Slam [you did it] because the surface changes, but the experience is that you go on court, you play against the best players in the world. I think he arrives with a lot of confidence.”

Djokovic leads Thiem 6-4 in their ATP Head2Head series, but the Austrian has won four of their past five matches.

“The three matches that I saw, at the end of the match, because of two, three balls, [the match] goes for one side or to the other one. The good thing [is] that they know each other. They played many times before. They also practise sometimes on the Tour. I think for sure they are very motivated both to win tomorrow,” Massu said. “For me the most important thing is that Dominic plays his game… I think he’s playing really well. I’m really happy the way he’s playing the past months.”

My Point: Get The Players' Point Of View

Massu and Thiem have been working together for less than a year. But Thiem is soaring to new heights, and he will climb to a career-high No. 3 in the FedEx ATP Rankings on Monday if he lifts the trophy.

“Before I started to work with his team, [as] a spectator, I always loved his tennis. It’s the tennis that I like. He’s an unbelievable, complete player,” Massu said. “For sure when I saw him play before and I started to work with him, I believed that he can have these kind of results because his shots and the speed of the ball is amazing. He’s a very complete player, also. I think that today the results are showing.”

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10 Stats To Watch In The Djokovic-Thiem Australian Open Final

  • Posted: Feb 01, 2020

10 Stats To Watch In The Djokovic-Thiem Australian Open Final takes you inside the match before Sunday’s championship

Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem will play for the Australian Open trophy. The match figures to be a classic clash between seven-time champion Djokovic’s defence and Thiem’s powerful offence. How have the two men performed throughout the fortnight, and how could that play a role with the title at stake? looks at 10 stats to watch for ahead of the championship battle inside Rod Laver Arena.

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Preview: Will Thiem Loosen Djokovic’s Iron Grip On The Australian Open Title?

1) Dropping Serve: Thiem has been broken nine times in his past two matches, while Djokovic has only lost three service games from the second round on after being broken four times by German Jan-Lennard Struff in his opening round. The second seed has saved 11 of the 18 break points he has faced, while the Austrian, who is pursuing his first Grand Slam title, has been broken 13 times in the tournament from 44 opportunities.

2) Melbourne Magic: Djokovic has history on his side at Melbourne Park. He has won all 15 of his matches after reaching the semi-finals at the season’s first Grand Slam, with 12 of those clashes coming against Top 5 opponents. In those 15 matches, he has only lost 10 sets.

3) Winners-Unforced Errors: Although Thiem is known for his offence, with 287 winners this fortnight, Djokovic has played cleaner tennis, hitting 1.6 winners for every unforced error he has struck (213-131), while the Austrian has hit 1.3 winners per unforced error (287-213).

2020 Australian Open Points, Sets & Time On Court

 Stat  Novak Djokovic  Dominic Thiem
 Points Played  1,091  1,477
 Sets Played  16  23
 Time On Court  12:29  18:24

4) The Point Of Unreturned: Djokovic has been a service rhythm all tournament, seeing 37 per cent of his serves go unreturned, while also crushing 70 aces. Only 30 per cent of Thiem’s serves have gone unreturned, and he has struck 57 aces.

5) Thiem’s Tie-break Turnaround: Thiem won just four of the first 12 tie-breaks of his Australian Open career. But against Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev, he won all five tie-breaks he played to advance to his first hard-court Grand Slam final. Djokovic is 23-14 in tie-breaks at this event, and 3-0 this year.

6) Baseline Battle: Since the first round, when he won just 50 per cent of his baseline points against Struff, Djokovic has won 56.7 per cent of his baseline points, and no less than 53 per cent in a match. Thiem, who has won 53.5 per cent of his baseline points, has only won a combined 48.5 per cent over his past two matches against Nadal and Zverev, including 46.8 per cent against Zverev in the semi-finals.

Points Won At The 2020 Australian Open By Rally Length

 Rally Length  Novak Djokovic  Dominic Thiem
 0-4  57.3%  53.6%
 5-8  55.6%  50.6%
 9+  61.4%  62.3%

7) Four Shots Or Less: The 0-4 shot range consistently proves key in matches, and Djokovic has dominated in that department during this Australian Open. The Serbian has won 57.3 per cent of those points to Thiem’s 53.6 per cent. Djokovic even won this category against Roger Federer, who is known for his serving and first-strike tennis.

8) Nine Or More Shots: While they both have done even better in rallies of nine or more shots than they have in shorter points, that is where Thiem has found his most success. The fifth seed has won an astounding 62.3 per cent of points lasting nine or more shots to Djokovic’s 61.4 per cent. However, Thiem lost more points in that category against Zverev (22) in their semi-final than he did against Gael Monfils (4) and Rafael Nadal (12) combined in the fourth round and quarter-finals, respectively.

9) Net Rushers: Both Djokovic and Thiem have been extremely successful of late when coming to net. Djokovic has won 21 of 23 net points in past two matches, while Thiem was successful on 23 of 27 trips forward against Zverev in the last four.

10) Melbourne History: Four of the past 10 Australian Open champions have played the first semi-final, while six have played their semi-final following day. Djokovic defeated six-time champion Federer on Thursday, and Thiem ousted 2018 Nitto ATP Finals titlist Zverev on Friday.

– Statistical research contributed by Leo Levin.

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Murray & Mattek-Sands beaten in mixed doubles final

  • Posted: Feb 01, 2020
2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app; Watch highlights on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer.

Jamie Murray missed out on an eighth Grand Slam title when he and Bethanie Mattek-Sands lost to Nikola Mektic and Barbora Krejcikova in the Australian Open mixed doubles final.

Britain’s Murray and his American partner were beaten 5-7 6-4 10-1 by the Croatian-Czech pairing.

It was a first Grand Slam title for Mektic, while Krejcikova retained the title she won with Rajeev Ram in 2019.

Britain’s Joe Salisbury is in Sunday’s men’s doubles final alongside Ram.

Murray and Mattek-Sands got off to the worst possible start when the Scot was broken in the opening game.

They stayed behind until Mektic was serving for the set at 5-4 and double-faulted on the deciding point to hand Murray and Mattek-Sands the break back.

The Briton and his partner then held serve with a Murray smash before breaking Krejcikova with a beautiful backhand down the line from Mattek-Sands to take the set.

But they then found themselves a double break down in the second set and while they clawed back one of the breaks, they could not stop the final heading into a match tie-break, where Murray and Mattek-Sands were outplayed.

“The first time Beth’s been lost for words,” said Murray, 33.

“We fought as hard as we can but came up short, so congrats on a Grand Slam title.

“It was a good, fun atmosphere to play. Beth, thanks for being a great partner, we have had a lot of success but more importantly a lot of fun. We’ll try and come back next year and get a win.”

Murray had been bidding to break Virginia Wade’s record to become Britain’s most successful Grand Slam player of the Open era.

He has two men’s doubles titles, from the Australian Open and US Open in 2016, and five mixed doubles titles.

After winning Wimbledon with Jelena Jankovic in 2007, he collected back-to-back titles with Martina Hingis at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2017 before successive US Open titles with Mattek Sands in 2018 and 2019.

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Kenin wins Australian Open title – report & highlights

  • Posted: Feb 01, 2020
2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app; Watch highlights on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer.

American Sofia Kenin fulfilled her potential by winning a first Grand Slam title with victory over Spain’s Garbine Muguruza at the Australian Open.

Kenin won 4-6 6-2 6-2 against two-time major winner Muguruza in Melbourne.

The 21-year-old was a child prodigy, who started making television appearances from the age of five and hitting with the stars soon after.

“My dream has officially come true,” said Kenin, the eighth first-time women’s champion in the past 12 Slams.

“Dreams come true. If you have a dream then go for it – it will come true.

“These two weeks have been the best two weeks of my life.”

Kenin, who turned 21 in November, is the youngest Australian Open champion since Russian Maria Sharapova in 2008.

The American 14th seed was gifted victory when Muguruza produced a double fault on the second match point – the Spaniard’s third of the game and eighth of the match.

Kenin dropped her racquet to the court and covered her face in shock, before going over to the opposite corner where her dad – and coach – Alex was sitting.

The pair warmly cupped hands before she returned to the court, spinning around and lifting her arms up towards him again in a gesture which summed up her shock.

  • Reaction to Kenin’s victory over Muguruza
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Confident Kenin fulfils a dream long predicted to come true

Kenin was born in Russia but was a few months old when she moved with her parents to the United States, where she picked up a racquet at the age of five.

Raised in New York and sent to Florida to train, she quickly became a star in the States, featuring on television programmes and the covers of magazines which predicted a successful professional career ahead.

Famously, aged five, she claimed she would be able to return a serve from hard-hitting American star Andy Roddick, then practised with Grand Slam champions John McEnroe, Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters.

Two years later she spoke of her ambition to win one of the sport’s biggest prizes.

Now she has achieved her dream. And that confidence illustrated while still at primary school remains one of her key attributes.

Kenin never gives up and never shies away from a fight on court, which is what she found herself in after Muguruza won the opening set.

Demonstratively frustrated, she came out punching in the second, returning even more relentlessly than usual. Muguruza could not cope.

Breaks at 2-1 and 5-2 enabled Kenin to take the match into a decider, before she swung the momentum of a tight third set her way with a monumental hold for 3-2.

Trailing 40-0, she fought back with five points of the highest quality. Two backhands down the line under the most intense of pressure were outrageous, a third winner – this time down the other flank – almost ridiculous.

An ace out wide and a crosscourt forehand winner – after drawing Muguruza into the net – clinched the hold. It also virtually clinched the championship.

From that point, Muguruza’s confidence waned, with the Spaniard losing serve in the next game and again – in the most painful of circumstances – in what proved to be the final game.

Muguruza’s double faults prove costly

Unseeded Muguruza, 26, was aiming to cap a remarkable return to form with a third Grand Slam title to follow victories at the 2016 French Open and Wimbledon a year later.

Some may have thought the former world number one was the favourite to beat Kenin at Melbourne Park, based on her previous success and the way she powered through the draw by beating four seeded players.

Three of those victories came against top-10 opponents in Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, Ukrainian fifth seed Elina Svitolina and Dutch ninth seed Kiki Bertens.

However, the streaky nature of Muguruza’s game appeared when she needed it least.

Four unforced errors surrendered a 40-15 lead in the fifth game of the final set, gifting a crucial break which Kenin would not give up.

Muguruza’s serving was erratic throughout, but particularly illustrated by the final game where two aces on the way to 40-15 were undone by the costly double faults.

The Venezuelan-born player was crestfallen as she lost the match in the worst possible way, apologetically pledging to keep her runners-up speech short because she was “going to get very emotional”.

“I’m not very happy about my performance,” said Muguruza, who was playing in her first Grand Slam final on a hard court.

“I had to play better because she came up with a great level. At the important moments I didn’t find my shots. She found her shots.”

At the end of the second set, Muguruza called on the trainer and said afterwards she was “feeling” her body after “many tough matches”.

“I did feel a little bit of a lack of energy after so many matches. Physically it was a tough battle out there,” she added.


Former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli on BBC Radio 5 Live

I was extremely impressed by the way Kenin dealt with the pressure of playing her first Grand Slam final.

She held her nerve extremely well, she was the best player out of the two. Her fitness level really proved that she could stay out there and compete so hard for as long as she needed to win this match.

She was the most composed, especially in crucial moments. I am extremely impressed by her performance.

It shows that someone who competes and fights for every single ball can go a very long way in today’s tennis.

It shows when you just don’t beat yourself, put a lot of balls in the court, she doesn’t have a massive shot – maybe one, her backhand down the line – and you don’t miss many balls, you can win a Grand Slam.

It sends a message to the rest of the field, the way she plays, some girls can take some bits and pieces and add it to their games.

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