Kenin stuns top seed Barty to reach Australian Open final

Agence France-Presse
Kenin stuns top seed Barty to reach Australian Open final
American Sofia Kenin bundles out world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty to reach her first Grand Slam title showdown

 

MELBOURNE, Australia – Feisty American 14th seed Sofia Kenin stunned world No. 1 and home hope Ashleigh Barty to reach her first Grand Slam final at the Australian Open on Thursday, January 30.

Kenin pulled off a surprise 7-6 (8/6), 7-5 victory to arrange a title showdown versus Garbine Muguruza, the unseeded former world number one who battled into her first Australian Open final after fighting back in both sets to defeat 4th seed Simona Halep 7-6 (10/8), 7-5 

Moscow-born Kenin, 21, who looked shocked in the immediate aftermath, said: “She’s such a tough player, she’s playing really amazing. I knew I had to really find a way to win.

“I’m just speechless, I honestly can’t believe this. I’ve dreamed about this moment since I was 5 years old.”

“I’ve worked so hard to get here,” added Kenin. “I really had to fight out here. There’s a reason she’s No. 1.”

Kenin, the last American left in a sweltering Melbourne, where play on the outside courts was suspended as temperatures hit 38 Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit), was the party pooper once more.

She had already brought the fairytale run of 15-year-old Coco Gauff to an end in the fourth round with the aggressive style of play that has become her trademark over the past fortnight.

And she was at it again as temperatures soared at a fiercely pro-Barty Rod Laver Arena. Both players retreated into the shade on court whenever they could.

Kenin, who had a breakthrough 2019, winning her first 3 WTA titles, was contesting her first Grand Slam semifinal, and it was Barty’s first time in the last four in Melbourne.

But if the locals hoped Kenin would be cowed by the occasion and her top-ranked opponent, the French Open champion, they were mistaken.

Barty and Kenin, wearing identical mint-green tops and blue skirts, went with serve in the 1st set, although the Australian was slightly more comfortable in doing so.

There was again little between them in the tiebreak, until Barty unleashed a delicious cross-court forehand for two set points.

But Barty, who once gave up tennis to play professional cricket, wasted both and they were level at 6-6.

Kenin, a fiercely proud American with a stars-and-stripes racket, went 7-6 up and wrapped the set up in 59 minutes when Barty made an unforced error on a forehand.

Barty, aiming to become the first home-grown Australian Open women’s champion since Chris O’Neil in 1978, showed a rare flash of anger.

The Australian went a break up early in the 2nd set to wrestle back the initiative, then held serve for 3-1. It was Kenin’s turn to show her frustration.

But Barty again squandered two set points, and was broken when she missed a routine forehand. Gasps and then a hush descended on Rod Laver Arena.

Serving to stay in the tournament at 5-6, Barty saved the first match point, but folded under the pressure when she planted a forehand long.

 

 

Muguruza is unseeded at a Grand Slam for the first time since 2014 after her ranking slipped to 36 at the end of a poor 2019 by her high standards.

That meant a tricky path to the final in Melbourne, where temperatures soared close to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) on Thursday.

“It’s difficult, you never know who you’re going to face right away, not being seeded,” said the two-time Grand Slam winner.

“I knew whatever match, it was going to be tough, even how I started the tournament not feeling well.

“I’m happy to not be in the spotlight, it’s good.”

Muguruza was hindered by a viral illness in her tournament opener and lost the first set 6-0 to American qualifier Shelby Rogers. But she recovered her form and fitness to beat 3 top-10 seeds on her run to the final.

Muguruza, who was restrained in her celebrations, is the first unseeded player to reach the Melbourne women’s final since Belgium’s Justine Henin in 2010.

Muguruza and Halep, two former French Open and Wimbledon champions, were too close to split in a nervy 1st set at a steamy Rod Laver Arena.

Muguruza squandered two set points in the tiebreak while saving two more for Halep, and then clinched it with a stop volley that the Romanian couldn’t get back over the net.

It was the 1st set that Halep – also a former No. 1 – had dropped all week and she reacted by mangling her racket and slumped in her chair, shaking her head.

The 28-year-old recovered her poise and broke Muguruza for a 3-2 lead in the second set, before Muguruza broke back and then held to make it 6-5.

Halep, so serene in Melbourne up until now, cracked as she served to stay in the tournament, netting a backhand as Muguruza surged forward on the second match point. – Rappler.com

 

 

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