On a hot afternoon at the Australian Open, 21-year-old Sofia Kenin entered the Rod Laver Arena and faced Ashleigh Barty in her first Grand Slam semi-final.
23-year-old Barty beat Kenin at last year's French Open, beating her in four out of five previous matches. Kenin defeated Barty in straight sets 7: 6 (6), 7: 5 and thwarted the Australian's hopes of ending the country's 42-year drought for a local champion.
"I've always believed I could do that," said Kenin, who received the WTA Best Player of the Year award in 2019. "I said to myself:" I believe in myself. If I lose the set, I will still come out and believe. "
Kenin's name, who was once a child prodigy, was virtually unknown outside the tennis circles until Thursday.
"I mean, yes, I know that people haven't really paid much attention to me in the past," said Kenin, who is the youngest woman to have beaten the world's No. 1 in a Grand Slam since 2002.
"I had to establish myself and I have. Of course, I now get the attention that I like. I will not lie. "
"It deserves this respect and it deserves recognition," said Barty.
Sofia Anna "Sonya" Kenin was born in Moscow, Russia, and grew up in Florida after her family emigrated to the United States. She started playing tennis at the age of 5 and became almost instantly famous in sports. At the age of 6 she was on the front pages of magazines.
"I'm so speechless. I honestly can't believe that. I've only dreamed of that since the Andy Roddick video," said Kenin Jim Courier during an interview on the pitch after the game.
It refers to one famous video 5-year-old Kenin told reporters that she could return Roddick's serve.
She quickly rose in the USTA juniors and was ranked number 1 in divisions 12, 14, 16 and 18 and below. In 2014, she represented the United States at the Summer Youth Olympics.
Kenin lost a scholarship to play tennis at the University of Miami and instead became a professional in 2017. She moved into the third round of the US Open for three consecutive years and defeated Maria Sharapova in 2017, but the best result in her eleventh season of Grand Slam draws was a fourth round loss at the 2019 French Open against the later champion Barty. Kenin upset Serena Williams in the third round with Roland Garros.
"She just played incredibly," said Williams after the game about Kenin. "She really went out today and did a great job."
With the win on Thursday, Kenin is expected to enter the top 10 in the world rankings for the first time in her career. She is heading to her first grand slam final in front of the 26-year-old Spaniard Garbiñe Muguruza, which will take place on Saturday (3.30 p.m. EST). Muguruza, a former world number one and two-time Grand Slam champion, prevailed against Simona Halep in another semi-final with 7: 6 (8) and 7: 5.