Australian Open 2020: 'Feisty' Kenin inspired by Sharapova and Serena

By Sports Desk February 01, 2020

Russia-born American star Sofia Kenin revealed Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams provided inspiration for her breakthrough Australian Open success.

Kenin, who moved to the United States when she was a child, claimed her first grand slam title on Saturday, fighting back to beat Garbine Muguruza 4-6 6-2 6-2 in the final at Melbourne Park.

The 21-year-old was to leapfrog 23-time major champion Williams to reach number seven in the WTA rankings following her triumph, becoming the top-ranked American player.

Kenin will now join her role model on the USA team for an upcoming Fed Cup qualifier, but she was also keen to highlight her Russian roots and the "feisty" approach she learned from Sharapova, a five-time grand slam winner.

"I definitely think [my Russian heritage] helped me," Kenin told a news conference. "I've looked up to Maria Sharapova, Anna Kournikova. I followed their matches when I was little.

"I feel like I got the feisty [approach]. I saw what it's like. She won a grand slam at 17, Maria, which I remember watching on TV. Yeah, I feel like that definitely helped me.

"I have part of Russian stuff inside me, the fight that I have, trying just to be confident, do what I do best.

"And thank you to my parents for giving me the American dream. [Being the American number one] is exciting. I'm so happy. I was told if I would win, I'd be number seven [in the world].

"It's such an honour. I love representing the US. I just love it. It's like an honour.

"Everything is coming into place, a dream come true. Everything I've done, all the hard work I've been doing is paying off.

"It hasn't sunk in yet. Everything is just still a blur for me. I just can't believe what happened. Yeah, it's just great. I feel like I'm doing some great things for American tennis.

"It's such an honour. 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 the Fed Cup."

As well as dropping the first set to Muguruza, Kenin recovered from a love-40 deficit on her serve at 2-2 in the decider.

"I'm so proud. Obviously not many people can do that," she said. "I feel like mental toughness has been a huge part. I've worked on that over the course of the years. It's just paying off.

"I knew I had to take my chance. I had to be brave by playing a two-time grand slam champion. All respect to her. She played a really tough match. Every point was such a battle."

Kenin is the 11th different champion in the 13 grand slams since the start of 2017, yet she was hoping to enjoy a period of dominance going forward.

"I would love to. That would be amazing," she said. "Right now, I mean, I still can't believe what just happened. I need to somehow come down and just let it all sink in.

"Hopefully, I can just keep going, build on everything that I've done these past two weeks, just move forward."

Related items

  • Del Potro admits to struggles in return bid, eyes Olympics Del Potro admits to struggles in return bid, eyes Olympics

    Juan Martin del Potro admitted he was struggling in his bid to return from knee surgery as he eyes next year's Olympics.

    Del Potro, 32, last played competitively 17 months ago and underwent a third right knee surgery in August.

    The 2009 US Open champion is still hoping to return, but admitted it had been challenging.

    "I am having a hard time coming back. I still stand by the desire that I have to continue playing," Del Potro told ESPN on Friday.

    "The reality is that it is difficult. I'm going to keep fighting as long as I feel like I want to continue."

    He added: "Due to the pandemic, the Olympics Games are next year and I'm excited to be there.

    "If I have to close my career, I think it would be to give myself an award to represent my country."

    A bronze medallist in men's singles at the 2012 Olympics, Del Potro won silver in Rio four years later, and said he hoped to retire on the court.

    The Argentinian also took time to remember the great Diego Maradona, who died on Wednesday.

    Del Potro recalled his meetings with Maradona during the 2016 Davis Cup final, which he helped Argentina win against Croatia in Zagreb.

    "In that Davis Cup final, every night, on my own without anyone knowing, I saw him 10, 15 minutes before going to sleep," he said.

    "He did it in private so that he doesn't disarm the team's structure."

    Del Potro added: "He sent me a very nice message after winning and I gave him my racquet."

  • Australian Open likely to be delayed, but only by a week or two Australian Open likely to be delayed, but only by a week or two

    The 2021 Australian Open is likely to be pushed back, but only for a week or two.

    Uncertainty has surrounded the scheduled first grand slam of next year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    Reports had suggested the Australian Open could start in March or April, instead of its scheduled January 18 beginning.

    But Victorian minister for tourism, sport and major events Martin Pakula said on Wednesday a delay of a week or two was looking likely.

    "I think that's most likely, but it's not the only option," he told reporters, via the ABC.

    This year's Wimbledon was cancelled and the US Open was played behind closed doors, while the French Open was delayed before allowing a limited number of spectators.

    Victoria on Wednesday recorded its 26th consecutive day without a new coronavirus case.

    Pakula confirmed players would be tested and contained in a bubble during the Australian Open.

    "It's fair to say that Tennis Australia and the playing group have been encouraged to keep the total number of people coming in, not necessarily to a minimum, but to a lower number than would otherwise be the case," he said.

    "People need to bear in mind that there will be an extremely rigorous testing regime that will apply to the tennis players both before they leave the port that they're coming from and when they arrive, and I would imagine consistently during the time that they're in their bubble."

  • Russia president Putin congratulates mastery of ATP Finals champ Medvedev Russia president Putin congratulates mastery of ATP Finals champ Medvedev

    Daniil Medvedev's triumph at the ATP Finals has earned public acclaim from Russia president Vladimir Putin, who said he "demonstrated great preparation, mastery and truly fighting spirit".

    World number four Medvedev won a barnstorming final against Dominic Thiem in the last showpiece to be held at London's O2 Arena before the season-ending tournament moves to Turin in 2021.

    Medvedev came from a set down to defeat the US Open champion - who had beaten him en route to glory at Flushing Meadows - to secure the biggest title of his career.

    In doing so, Medvedev became the second Russian to win the event after Nikolay Davydenko in 2009.

    Putin posted a telegram on the Kremlin's official website on Tuesday, part of which was quoted by Russian news agency TASS, to congratulate Medvedev.

    "You went through the whole ATP Finals tournament brilliantly and, in one breath, you demonstrated great preparation, mastery and truly fighting spirit in beautiful and tense matches," the telegram read. 

    "Your victory continues great traditions of the Russian tennis school."

    Medvedev and Thiem each scored wins over both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to reach Sunday's showpiece.

    Speaking on Monday, Medvedev said it will be difficult for any of the chasing pack to become world number one while ever those two greats are still playing.

    "It's still a long way to get to the top of the line [in the ATP rankings]," Medvedev told TASS.

    "You have to complete the season better than all the rest to become the world's number one. Sometimes 8,000 points can be sufficient but on other occasions 12,000 points are not enough. 

    "It all depends on me; the more tournaments that I’ll have like in Paris and London, the more chances I’ll get to top of the ATP rankings."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.