Sofia Kenin is the latest player to break their grand slam duck, beating Garbine Muguruza 4-6 6-2 6-2 to take the Australian Open 2020 title. The American joins Naomi Osaka, Bianca Andreescu and Ashleigh Barty as recent first time slam winners, following a dearth of 90s born titlists prior to Muguruza’s initial first slam.
Kenin had come through a weak draw to make the semi finals but showed her mettle in the semi finals with an impressive win over tournament favourite Barty. It did look like Muguruza would overwhelm her in the early stages after the Spaniard broke earlier but Kenin is considered one of the mentally toughest players on the tour and was not going to disappear easily. She broke back for 4-4 after saving 0-40 in the previous service game but would end up dropping her serve right back as Muguruza pulled into a one set lead.
After a shaky first set of serving, Kenin showed a major improvement in the second. Two strong love holds gave a good footing for the American, who then broke for a 3-1 lead as she looked to secure a deciding set. Another break gave her the set and vitally, the opportunity of serving first in the decider.
The pair traded holds before Kenin found herself in a major 0-40 hold at 2-2. Had Muguruza broke, the Spaniard would have fancied her chances to keep the lead and earn a third slam title. Instead, Kenin produced one of the most impressive holds in a slam final with five straight winners – including three down the line to begin with. This was the clear turning point of the match as Kenin then broke for a 4-2 lead after a Muguruza double fault. That was one of four for her in the deciding set, with three more coming in her final service game in a disappointing end to what had been an enthralling match for the most part.
There was no doubt that this was a deserved victory for Kenin, whose mental toughness and big point play was decisive here. The American went 5/6 on break points while Muguruza went a disappointing 2/12. “I felt that in the third set, I felt like I was getting closer to the title, something that I really want,” she said afterwards. “I knew I needed to somehow try and relax, just try to calm down. I did a great job. I looked a few times to my box. They cheered for me, calmed me down. It just paid off… After that, I was on fire. I was ready to take the beautiful trophy.” she said on the match.
Muguruza will be disappointed to have been unable to close out the match but the signs of a recovery are clear for all to see. “I think I’m in a good process. I think I felt my game much better than before. I think I got to keep it that way, keep working physically. These events are really long, so you got to be strong. But just keep improving and being able to go far in the tournaments because then is when you face these top players. You get a feel of where your game has to go, what…I have to improve.” she said.
Muguruza finds herself back in the top 20 while Kenin will be in the top 10 for the first time. A spot in the WTA Finals in Shenzhen seems highly likely too with 2000 points added to the American’s column for 2020 already.