Spurred on by sheer self-belief, Sofia Kenin will forever remember the one game that ultimately propelled her to a shock maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.
Kenin capped a phenomenal tournament in Melbourne by winning her first major title at the Australian Open on Saturday night, coming back from a set down to outlast two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza 4-6 6-2 6-2.
In winning 12 of the last 16 games, the scoreline made it look like a relatively comfortable victory for Kenin – however it was anything but, and the 21-year-old knows if it wasn’t for an extraordinary escape act in the fifth game of the deciding set, the final could have played out in a completely different manner.
Kenin recovered from 0-40 to win five points on the bounce, hitting three incredible winners down the line, an ace and a forehand pass on game point.
“I can remember that game very well, yes,” Kenin told reporters after the win. “That’s the game I feel like changed things. I had to play some best tennis. I did. After that, I was on fire. I was ready to take the beautiful trophy.
“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, it was such a battle. A lot of moving. A lot of emotions on court from both sides.
“I knew I needed to come up with the best shot, five best shots of my life…It got me to win a Grand Slam.”
Overall, it was a simply stunning performance from Kenin in her first Grand Slam final, with the American firing 28 winners to just 23 unforced errors.
After saving set points in both sets against World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in the semi-finals, Kenin further illustrated her almost unrivalled fighting qualities and competitiveness in beating Muguruza for the title.
“I’ve always had that,” said Kenin when asked about her unwavering self-belief.
“I knew I needed to establish myself to get to where I am. All the confidence has come with all the matches that I’ve had, the success I’ve had in 2019.
“I’ve always had that. Match play has really helped me. All the confidence that I’m getting is because of that.
Kenin is the first American woman without the last name ‘Williams’ to win the Australian Open since Jennifer Capriati in 2002, while at 21, she’s also the youngest champion in Melbourne since Maria Sharapova in 2008.
A new career-high ranking also awaits on Monday, with Kenin set to crack the top 10 for the first time as she rises to No. 7 in the world.