Sofia Kenin: American, Immigrant, Our Aussie Open Champion

Woke up on Saturday morning to watch American Sofia Kenin defeat Spaniard Garbine Muguruza in the Australian Open final. Full disclosure, I woke up to watch the replay on ESPN 2, but I did not once look at my phone to find match spoilers. At the age of 46, I am loathe to get up at 3:30 AM EST for anything. Except to pee. I pee a lot now, in the middle of the night.

You can call me Sonya

This is the first Slam win for 21-year-old for Sophia Kenin, who goes by Sonya to her friends and family. The 14th seed, she made it through the draw to the final by defeating players like Coco Gauff and world number 1, Ash Barty.

Kenin has a game that any club player/hacker should work to emulate. She plays the patterns. She takes you out wide and then ruins you. She’s not above a squash shot to keep her in the point. Kenin’s defensive lob is a thing of beauty and something that every club should feature in its “Shot of the Week” clinic.

After losing the first set, Kenin left the court to re-group, and whatever she said to herself in the bathroom mirror worked, rolling comfortably to take the second set 6-2.

In the third, serving at 2-2, Kenin was down love-40 and instead of freaking out and pushing the ball, she kicked in her greatest skill — forgetting that last point — and went on to nail five points in a row and hold her serve. It’s the mental game that gets you titles.

The cross-court angles these women were hitting are like Manny Jacinto’s cheekbones: sharp and unbelievable. It was a high-level and enjoyable match with very little show of nerves that can take the air out of a final. The match felt like it was Kenin’s to lose after she won the second set and Muguruza called the trainer, struggled with movement, and tried to end points more quickly. Muguruza, who has two major titles under her belt, blinked. Her first serve, which kicked ass in the first set, left her in the second and especially the third. You could almost see her saying, “Don’t double fault, don’t fault, don’t double fault” as she caught errant tosses.

The match ended as Muguruza hit her last two serves long. Oof, that had to hurt. Kenin dropped her Babalot racquet — with American flag detailing — to the ground in a moment of stunned joy. One thing I respect about Kenin: She lives in the USA and she plays for the USA. Yes, this is a knock on Maria Sharapova.

I watched the final as I struggled with my monthly period migraine. Kenin’s cross-court forehand was working, and my Imitrex was not. I kept thinking, Women have to play through their periods. You want women to play five sets in majors to say we are equal? What pish. I want to see Novak play with headaches, cramps, uncontrollable mood swings*, bloating, and the squirts first.

*I said uncontrollable.

Give this girl all the Moet & Chandon. Sophia Kenin played fearless, and never once altered her post-point style  — even points she wins — which I describe as “What in the actual f*ck am I doing?!”

If Serena couldn’t win, I’m pleased another American could take the trophy. Sofia’s parents immigrated to the USA in 1987, living in New York City. They went back home to Russia in 1998 for Sofia’s birth, and to take full advantage of the help that only grandmas and grandpas can give. The family returned to the States when Kenin was two. Immigrants…they get the job done.

“I’ve watched Serena. I’ve been following her, all the Slams she’s been winning. It’s a special feeling just to be ahead of her. I’m just super excited. I can’t wait to compete, be on the same team with her in Fed Cup.” -Sofia Kenin

If you live in or near the Seattle area, do yourself a favor and get tickets to watch Fed Cup action next week at the Angels of the Winds Arena. The USA team is stacked! Kenin, Serena, Coco, Riske. It will be great tennis and a reason to show some national pride. Lord knows we need it.




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