February 1, 2020
Sofia Kenin displayed such a phenomenal will to win that no one could stop her in the end.
Not even a double Grand Slam winner with the force of Garbine Muguruza could prevent the relentless realisation of a dream.
Superhuman defence. Fearless, lethal attack. Always sending one, simple message: ‘I will not be denied my dream come true.’
To pulverise an opponent who had three break points in the decider was simply breathtaking in its audacity.
In the end the crumbling Muguruza gave a look of sheer despair. She was facing willpower from another planet.
All that was left was to double-fault and end her own misery.
Kenin went to hold her father’s hand in her moment of victory.
She was only seven years old when she said she would rule the tennis world.
She wasn’t kidding.
Kenin held aloft the huge trophy then said: ‘This is my first speech but I’m gonna try my best.
‘Congratulations to Garbine on a great tournament. I’m sure we will play many more finals.
‘My dream officially came true. Dreams do come true. If you have a dream, go for it! It will come true.’
For now she “only” rules Australia. But her 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 comeback was frightening.
A few days ago it seemed so unlikely. Yes, she had beaten the amazing Coco Gauff and the world number one, Ashleigh Barty.
It was so tempting to assume that Muguruza, the woman who had won such a special match against Simona Halep, would find the final a breeze.
Some seasoned observers made Kenin favourite though, off the back of her win over Muguruza in Beijing last year.
They couldn’t possibly have watched the semi-finals in Melbourne, could they?
Muguruza had found a completely different level to defeat the fantastic Halep.
Kenin had stuttered and struggled in a disappointing semi-final against Barty.
She only came through thanks to her own sheer determination and Barty’s chronic attack of nerves.
But a final is a whole new ball-game. What has gone before means nothing.
And Kenin immediately looked a better player as she embraced the magnitude of the final and brought her best game from the start.
However well she started, though, she was dealing with an opponent in superlative form.
Muguruza bossed most of the first set, even though Kenin surprised many with her fearless aggression and probing drop-shots.
The Venezuelan-born Spaniard had three break points to go 5-2 ahead and squandered all of them.
Kenin was inspired and launched a fight-back to level at 4-4.
But Muguruza didn’t panic and attacked the Kenin serve instead. She broke and roared ferociously when she closed out the set.
We should have known better than to imagine that Kenin would fold. She looks as though she was born to fight. That inner warrior may even be the American’s strongest quality.
Sofia didn’t let Garbine take a point from her next two service games as she attempted to turn the tide.
The pressure told as Muguruza blasted too long and Kenin secured the break to lead 3-1 in the second.
You had to admire the younger woman’s courage in her first Grand Slam final.
Muguruza was suffering some dark moments. Maybe that epic against Halep was starting to take its toll.
She served to stay in the second set at 2-5 and seemed drained of the ferocity that had served her so well earlier in the match and indeed all tournament.
Kenin is not a young lady who needs a second invitation. She sniffs out uncertainly and preys on weakness.
Within seconds the match was level at one set all. Kenin had the momentum and the psychological upper hand.
Could she really take her first Grand Slam title at the age of 21?
Muguruza saw the trainer and badly needed to lick her wounds and loosen up. But would Kenin let her?
Garbine was over-hitting, snatching at bread-and-butter forehands…almost throwing the match away in a blur of confusion.
Even from the first game of the decider, it looked as though Kenin’s stranglehold would take some breaking.
Muguruza gained a foothold with a love service game. The next few minutes might even decide it, you sensed.
At 2-2 Muguruza had Kenin 0-40 on the American’s serve. But under the most extreme pressure, Sofia defended with all three of those breakpoints with such match-winning brilliance that she all but crushed her opponent right there.